The best of both worlds with managed private cloud

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

The best of both worlds with managed private cloud

Nearly five years after the announcement of the federal government’s “cloud first” strategy, agencies are still struggling to find a cloud strategy that is right for them.

As the federal information technology landscape continues to evolve, mobile computing, social media, cloud and big data provide challenges to ensuring access to information anytime, anywhere. Combined with skyrocketing data storage requirements, risks associated with shadow IT, security mandates and cost efficiency objectives, agencies must increasingly deliver the flexibility of public clouds with the control of private clouds.

Agencies should consider a combination of solutions and technologies that help them build a foundation from which to deliver on the promise of the cloud -- whether that solution is public, private or some hybrid version in between. What that looks like in practice varies by agency, but there are common characteristics of an effective cloud environment that all agencies should consider. A cloud solution must be:

Agile. An agency cloud environment should allow IT managers to easily move workloads across cloud systems to temporarily increase capacity or take advantage of the best pricing options. The most efficient way to achieve this level of agility is through a converged infrastructure that tightly integrates cloud platforms with the prevailing environment. In a converged environment, agencies can use hybrid cloud efficiency to leverage the benefits of both public and private clouds.

Available. Agencies need easy access to files anywhere, on any device. They should consider vendor-agnostic solutions that optimize data management infrastructures regardless of the legacy environment, and steer clear of

costly “rip and replace” infrastructure policies. Solutions must provide the tools that allow agencies to maintain data custody, enable highly functional collaboration and serve as a central data repository for anyone, anywhere.

Automated. An often-overlooked barrier to cloud migration is the inability to manage, manipulate and organize local data efficiently so it can be packaged and delivered to its new home in the cloud. Government agencies face a number of challenges, including disparate systems and multiple management points, lack of visibility or automation across data centers and low levels of shared or unified resources.

This situation presents unique challenges in moving to the cloud, but end-to-end automation lets agencies deploy applications faster and manage environments more easily. With an automated orchestration tool, agency IT staff can manage and administer both virtualized and nonvirtualized infrastructures from the same interface. Automation can integrate storage, infrastructure, data protection and management into a converged architecture, allowing agencies to build the foundation needed to begin moving to cloud.

Controlled. Agencies should also be able to control what moves to cloud when, as well as what data is being stored on- or off-site in a converged environment. It’s common for an agency to use a single management interface. By converging suppliers’ applications and managing them through a single pane of glass, agencies and service providers can streamline operations to provide maximum efficiency with minimum staffing.

Secure. While the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program provides a standard approach for assessing and monitoring the security of cloud products and services, agencies should still consider cloud security in depth. They should ensure they can securely synchronize files across multiple devices and, in hybrid cloud environments, decide what goes on in the cloud and what does not. Work files and mission-critical data sharing must happen flawlessly and be accessible on any device. Most important, systems must be secure enough that data does not to fall into the wrong hands. Agencies must deploy protocols that let administrators know where all the data is, control access to it, reduce the risk of human error and be alerted when abnormal data usage occurs.

The public cloud plays an important role in containing costs and increasing government agility. However, most agencies would not consider the public cloud a logical deployment for mission-critical workloads because privacy, data sovereignty, security and compliance may be at stake. Many organizations are considering private clouds, but these usually require large capital investments, lengthy transition periods and risk that the investment won’t pay off before the mission changes.

With a consumption-based, managed private cloud, agencies gain the best of both worlds: the flexible pricing and elasticity of a public cloud and a private cloud’s control over security, quality of service and privacy.

About the Author

Christian Heiter is CTO at Hitachi Data Systems Federal.

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