What's missing from the cloud? An exit strategy.

New survey gauges government perception of virtualization, cloud computing

You can get into the cloud, but do you have an exit strategy to get out?

Ninety percent of federal IT managers recently surveyed either say their agencies don’t have or report being unaware of whether their agencies have a cloud computing exit strategy, according to a survey commissioned by Quest Software Public Sector.

Agencies need a cloud exit strategy if they want to move their data or change cloud providers, government and industry experts say. To avoid vendor lock-in, there should be mechanisms for data exchange that encourage portability across platforms, they add.

Agency managers have concerns about data ownership and control in the public cloud and should have an exit strategy if they need to get out, said Paul Garver, president and CEO of Quest Public Sector.

“I would agree that exit strategies don't exist,” said Kevin Jackson, director of cloud services at IT consulting firm NJVC and a co-author of a book on applying cloud computing in the government.

“I would also add that entrance strategies are hard to come by as well, Jackson said, adding, most agencies are just trying to respond to the cloud-first policy,” an Office of Management and Budget directive that requires federal agencies to move three applications to the cloud within the next 12 to 18 months.

The majority of federal IT professionals, 62.2 percent, said that federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s initiative to eliminate at least 800 of the government’s data centers by 2015 is somewhat to very feasible.

However, regarding the cloud-first policy, only 15.9 percent of federal IT managers surveyed indicated their agencies would set up and operate their own private clouds. Nearly one-half of the government respondents, 48.4 percent, said they “don’t know” when asked how their agencies will satisfy these mandates.

Still, 68 percent of the federal respondents think that private or hybrid clouds will best meet their organizational needs five years or more from now, according to the “Pulse on Public Sector Virtualization and Cloud Computing Study” conducted by the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies at Norwich University, the nation’s oldest private military college.

The university, a National Security Agency and Homeland Security Department Center of Excellence, polled 646 federal, state and local, and higher education IT decision-makers between March and May 2011 to gauge their perceptions of virtualization and cloud computing issues.

Sixty-four percent of the federal managers said there is some level of confusion at their organizations about the distinction between cloud computing and virtualization.

Virtualization broadly refers to consolidating several systems onto one physical machine while maintaining their separate identities. Cloud computing can leverage virtualization technology to provide on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or interaction from the service provider.

Fifty-six percent of federal IT managers think that existing federal security standards and regulations such as the Federal Information Security Management Act & Federal Risk Authorization and Management Program need to be supplemented with additional cloud security standards and regulations, best practices and guidelines.

Some of the state and local findings include:

  • The significant majority of state and local respondents (71.7 percent) said that virtualization has made it easier to manage their environments.
  • Nearly 20 percent of state and local government respondents said that their organizations have already purchased and fully implemented virtualization technologies – almost twice the percentage of federal agencies that have virtualized.
  • When it comes to the biggest barrier to private cloud adoption among state and local government respondents, 18.9 percent said upfront costs to implementation.
  • State and local government IT managers show a strong interest in federal cloud security initiatives as demonstrated by the 36.2 percent of respondents who want to see more federal cloud mandates and guidelines.
  • More than 60 percent of state and local respondents prefer a hybrid or private cloud model over a public model (9.4 percent) in the long term.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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