Federal IT Pros Commit Gradually to the Cloud

Feds are finding outside expertise can be helpful: 56 percent worked with a consultant to conduct a readiness assessment and help navigate migration.

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While three-quarters (75 percent) of federal IT leaders want to move more services to the cloud, they are concerned about retaining control over their data, and 53 percent said the fear of long-term contracts holds them back, according to a MeriTalk survey underwritten by Red Hat and Cisco.

Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of the federal IT leaders surveyed said they deliver more than one-quarter of their agency's IT services fully or partially through the cloud, but some services are moving faster than others.

Email is first, with 50 percent of those who have implemented the cloud saying they have moved email.

Additionally, 45 percent report they have moved Web hosting, and 43 percent have migrated servers and storage. Fewer have migrated middleware or development tools (19 percent), enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions (26 percent, and disaster recovery (31 percent).

"Cloud is about choice and agility—you can't propose on the first date. Cloud service providers need to gradually build their relationships with feds, otherwise they'll push them away," Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, told eWEEK. "Agencies need to provide clearer feedback on the value of the service and their thoughts on how or if it needs to change. Feds need to accelerate CSP's path through the FedRAMP certification process. We also need clarity on if it's okay for agencies to buy CSP services that are in FedRAMP processing but not yet fully certified."

Federal IT leaders are also finding that outside expertise can be helpful. More than half (56 percent) have worked with a consultant to conduct a readiness assessment and help navigate cloud migration and have rated their experiences "very helpful."

However, 65 percent reported they are not completing a workload analysis to define the data, services or workloads to migrate to the cloud or centralizing IT governance, and 60 percent are not developing a cost model.

"I believe the feds will look toward open hybrid cloud relationships—open-source options," Mike Younkers, director of U.S. federal systems engineering for Cisco, told eWEEK. "Flexibility is the key to relationships, so I would imagine open-source and hybrid cloud technology will drive the path forward."

Data integration and portability issues are also top of mind, with 58 percent of respondents saying cloud and legacy system integration is a barrier to further migration, while 57 percent cited the inability to move data from existing legacy systems to the cloud, and 54 percent cited concerns with moving data once it is in the cloud.

Further, agencies estimate that 32 percent of their data cannot be moved to the cloud due to security or data sovereignty issues, and almost a quarter of agencies (23 percent) are not comfortable passing sensitive federal data to even certified cloud providers.

Just over half (53 percent) of those polled rated their cloud experiences very successful, but those who use or are open to using open source are seeing greater cloud success than the average.

For example, 72 percent said data security has improved by moving services to the cloud in the past year, versus 47 percent of those not using or open to using open-source options.

In addition, the study found 56 percent of respondents are very satisfied with cloud agility, versus 34 percent of their peers.