Federal IT Leaders View Migration to Cloud With Caution

While 54 percent of respondents cite security as a top concern, only one in five feel the security offered by their cloud vendors is sufficient.

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Federal agencies want to double their cloud use across infrastructure, platforms and applications, but 89 percent of federal IT professionals still feel some apprehension about migrating to the cloud, according to a MeriTalk study underwritten by NetApp and Arrow.

Fifty-five percent of federal IT professionals say that cloud makes data management/stewardship easier, noting easier upgrades and configuration management, stronger virtual staff support, faster data access and system monitoring as key benefits.

While only 44 percent of agencies have “mature” data governance practices in the cloud, 56 percent are currently in the process of implementing data stewardship or a more formal data governance program for their cloud services or vendors.

The survey found that those who are actively improving these programs are more likely to be comfortable turning over their IT services to cloud vendors (53 percent), than those who are not (32 percent).

While 54 percent of respondents cite security as their top concern, only one in five feel that the security offered by their cloud vendors is completely sufficient.

"Folks need to lose the fear factor [over cloud migration]. Jumping to the cloud is not a skydive," Stephen O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, told eWEEK. "You can jump and get back in the plane--you can also control your speed of descent, or ascent for that matter. Moving to the cloud does not mean losing control."

Indeed, nearly nine out of 10 (89 percent) agencies have taken steps to manage trust with their cloud vendors, including keeping security functions on-premise (42 percent), requiring certification of security measures taken (41 percent), and requiring that data resides on dedicated server, storage and network infrastructure (39 percent).

Additionally, those who use or plan to use a cloud brokerage service are significantly more comfortable turning their agency’s IT services and applications over to cloud providers (62 percent) than those who do not (32 percent).

The survey indicated federal agencies still have a ways to go, with key elements missing from their data governance policies.

For example, 61 percent of respondents note that their agencies do not have quality, documented metadata, 52 percent do not have well-understood data integration, half have not defined or identified data owners, and 49 percent do not have known systems of record.

"We'll see all manner of clouds--private, hybrid, public and everything in between. There will be successes and failures--and they're all good," O’Keefe said. "Although, after healthcare.gov, anticipate the failures will be quicker and much smaller scale. Agencies need to look at cloud migration for legacy systems--not just as an option for new build."

O’Keefe noted 70 percent of the federal government's $80 billion annual spend is tied up in maintaining geriatric systems.

"We need to consolidate applications, shrink capex infrastructure and pull the plug on crotchety and incontinent IT," he concluded.