5 cloud lessons learned by federal agencies

By Diana Manos
12:02 PM

Federal cloud leaders are saving money and streamlining their efforts, according to a new study by MeriTalk on the cloud usage of 15 federal agencies. But how hard is it?

Actually, not too hard, participants in the study said — at least not any harder than you’d expect any IT project to be.

MeriTalk does, however, offer words of warning:

  1. Define your objectives:  Beyond just compliance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) mandates, agencies need to specifically outline their objectives for moving to the cloud in clear, specific, and measurable terms.
  2. Do the math:  Moving to the cloud needs to make sense in hard, measurable terms including quality of service, mission enablement, cost savings, and operational efficiency.
  3. Do a reality check:  Once you have a technical and business case, aggressively review it.  Is it too optimistic?  Does it incorporate all of the potential risks?  Where are the most likely problems?  Most importantly, temper the expectations with your experience.
  4. Manage the procurers:  Given the technical and management challenges associated with cloud solutions, Federal IT professionals need to manage the procurement process and the procurers more explicitly.
  5. Expect challenges:  Don’t expect your cloud implementation, no matter how basic, to be fire-and-forget.    

The Jan. 28 study, titled “Cloud First Consumer Guide,” was underwritten by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google, provides rankings for cloud programs and approaches.

The timing for broad cloud adoption within Federal agencies could not be better, with Sequestration squeezing $85 billion from budgets in fiscal year 2013 (FY13), says Steve O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk in a news release. 

O’Keeffe predicts the Bipartisan Budget Act will ease some pressure during FY14 and FY15, however some agencies are already having to make cuts. The cloud is offering an opportunity for savings.

For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) saved $11.5M in one-time replacement costs and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board saved $854,800 in two years, according to MeriTalk.

“Cloud computing certainly offers agencies both significant cost savings and a more predictable cost model,” O’Keeffe said. “And agencies that have adopted the cloud are also becoming more efficient in the way they accomplish their mission, empowering employees with the ability to access information anywhere, and to share easily with those who need it.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) harnessed cloud-based disaster recovery to geographically expand its resilience without paying for (and managing) its own infrastructure.  Several federal cloud leaders said they like the flexible “pay-as-you-go” model of the cloud, allowing them to scale service up or down based upon regular versus peak demand.

“Cloud is not a concept, it’s an operational reality in federal agencies,” O’Keeffe said. 

To download the full report and the rankings, click here

See also:

Healthcare cloud changing with a vengence

Commentary: Why data privacy and security in the cloud are imperative

US, UK open public health cloud