Mission-critical apps need major overhaul for the cloud, feds say

Federal IT managers see the benefits of moving mission-critical applications to the cloud, but they say many of those application require major re-engineering to modernize them for the cloud, according to a new MeriTalk report. 

Forty-six percent of executives surveyed said cloud-based mission-critical apps would improve their agency’s ability to achieve its mission, while 35 percent are unsure. But 45 percent said those applications need a lot of work first.

Respondents said the top benefit of moving mission-critical apps to the cloud is cost savings. Those surveyed estimate they could save 21 percent of their IT budget, or $16.6B annually, if they move just three mission-critical apps to the cloud, according to the report, Mission-Critical Cloud Ready for the Heavy Lift?

MeriTalk, on behalf of EMC, VMware, and Carahsoft, conducted an in person and online survey of 151 IT federal government managers and systems integrators in June 2012.

While agencies devote more than half of their IT budget to mission-critical applications, few are moving them to the cloud. For instance, only 38 percent of the respondents said they have moved mission-critical applications to private clouds while 54 percent reported moving traditional applications to private clouds. Only 10 percent said they have moved mission-critical applications to the public cloud while 23 percent said they have moved traditional applications to public clouds.

Yet, the early adopters say migrations have worked. Ninety-one percent of those who have moved mission-critical apps to the cloud said the migrations have been successful. Those applications include financial management, procurement, logistics, customer relationship management and project management systems.

The federal IT managers were asked why they thought the implementation was successful. One defense IT manager said, “systems are running at a reduced cost across the enterprise and we are selling the services to outside agencies,” according to the report.

So what’s holding the other agencies back? Customization. Fifty-two percent of the applications are custom-built and would require a major overhaul to modernize for the cloud, according to 45 percent of those surveyed.

Security is always a top concern. Seventy-three percent cited security as the primary barrier to moving mission-critical apps to the on-demand and sharing of resources model espoused by cloud computing. However, many did not know about cloud security standards announced in January 2012 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Only 34 percent of the IT managers were familiar with the NIST standards, which offer recommendations for organizations outsourcing data, applications and infrastructure to a public cloud environment.

The IT managers also cited a need for clearer instructions for the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, the process to certify that cloud service providers and products meet the security regulations required to host and manage government applications.

Despite the challenges, feds see mission-critical apps living in the cloud in the future. In two years they expect 26 percent of their mission-critical apps will be in the cloud; in five years they expect 44 percent in the cloud.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

Reader Comments

Wed, Sep 19, 2012

If it's mission critical, why would you move it to something as unpredictable as the cloud.

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