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The "Converged" Journey To The Cloud

Public sector organizations are increasingly driven to improve operational efficiency, share information, and integrate processes across operational boundaries, while maintaining control and reducing costs. Therefore, it’s no secret that cloud computing has captured significant attention as both a business and computing model that enables public sector organizations to achieve these daunting objectives. The White House “Cloud First” directive was issued as guidance to all Federal agencies to move from traditional on-premise environments to consolidated data centers and virtualized, cloud-based services.

Agencies are already reaping the benefits of cloud. In fact, in a 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that outlined progress under the Cloud First policy, the GAO said that 19 out of 24 Federal agencies have saved $2.8 billion in operating costs and avoided capital expenses between 2011 and 2015 by moving workloads into the cloud and not building more data center space. With this growing significance, the challenge isn’t the decision to adopt cloud, but rather the journey to get there. In this installment of our converged infrastructure series, we will explore the path and the factors for agencies to successfully move to the cloud.

Government Considerations At The Forefront

Despite the benefits, there are three primary considerations for public sector agencies in moving to the cloud: security, cloud deployment models, and workforce impact.

Security

In 2011, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration introduced the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), a government-wide program providing a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring of cloud services from accredited Cloud Service Providers (CSPs).

In general, the FedRAMP accreditation process has improved agency confidence in purchasing and deploying cloud services. Public Sector agencies at all levels can leverage and benefit from CSP FedRAMP accreditations as a demonstration of their respective cloud security controls, policies, and practices.

Deployment Model

Within public sector, agencies frequently express their concern in identifying the right deployment model and having a solid understanding of what they can put in the cloud. There are strict guidelines around data governance, meaning agencies have good reason to feel hesitant about moving sensitive data to the cloud.

The ultimate decision in the journey to the cloud begins with selecting a deployment model—public, private, or hybrid cloud. Each offers its own benefits and opportunities. One of the key differentiators between public and private cloud is related to some of the security controls.  Agencies primarily concerned with maintaining more control over security functions may select a private cloud model. Public cloud has more front-end appeal to agencies focused more on data center consolidation, reducing total cost of ownership and increasing flexibility.

We have seen agencies adopt a variety of approaches based on their individual needs and requirements. Hybrid offers benefits of cloud, while relying on private cloud to maintain more control over security functions and public cloud to provide lower cost for general storage. Some agencies have looked to develop applications in a private cloud behind the agency firewall and then move those applications to the public cloud; while others have taken the opposite approach.

Workforce Impact

There is also a great deal of uncertainty in public sector regarding workforce impact and job training to ensure employees have the necessary skills to work in the cloud environment. Strategic IT initiatives like data center consolidation, virtualization, and cloud computing require new workforce skills—requiring a strong understanding of development operations, development testing, workload management, cloud operations, migration and planning. To ensure migration and ongoing operational success—regardless of the chosen CSP services—it is critical for agencies to invest in cloud computing skills training for IT staff.

These concerns are valid, but it is important to have a holistic perspective. Cloud can serve as a significant resource for government organizations. It can enable them to improve citizen services and experiences by providing integrated and targeted services to their constituents. Cloud helps public sector organizations overcome budget cuts and rising costs, by purchasing only what they need and use—an option available through most cloud services. And cloud can help improve service levels around performance and availability; with a regular cadence of smaller upgrades, which generally are less disruptive and costly.

For public sector, “most organizations now acknowledge that a complete cloud strategy includes both private clouds and public clouds in a hybrid environment. The combination of both cloud models helps agencies find the greatest operational efficiencies and lowest costs,” said Gary Newgaard, Oracle’s vice president of public sector hardware sales in a recent FCW article.

Selecting A Strategic Cloud Partner: Not All Are Created Equal

With the landscape of technology providers changing rapidly, agencies need to carefully evaluate cloud vendors. A provider that can meet compute, storage, and analytics requirements, while supporting a full range of SaaS services is critical in achieving long-term success. The key here is selecting a provider who offers flexible solutions that span all cloud service deployment models – whether private, public or hybrid.

Oracle addresses the strategic nature of cloud computing in government by offering a full range of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS services and capabilities. Oracle’s approach enables agencies to leverage the latest innovations for rapid development that cloud provides.

Furthermore, as part of helping address some data security concerns for a hybrid or private cloud deployment, Oracle has recently introduced the Oracle Cloud Machine. A differentiated on-premises implementation of Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure, Oracle Cloud Machine allows agencies to develop and run applications seamlessly behind their firewall as workloads are completely portable between the public cloud and your data center.

To learn more about Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, please contact Amit Sharma at amitab.sharma@oracle.com. For more news, tips, and information about government technology, check out Oracle Public Sector’s Facebook page and Twitter handle.

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