cloud migration (deepadesigns/

Cloud use climbs amid concerns over complexity

Government’s move to the cloud is picking up speed, with IT managers’ concerns about performance and complexity in hybrid environments overtaking those of security.

A new survey finds that 96 percent of North American public sector IT managers have migrated critical applications and infrastructure to the cloud over the past year, up from 92 percent in 2016 and 87 percent in 2015.

The main driver of the move is return on investment, according to Solar Winds’ annual IT Trends Report, which examines how hybrid IT is being integrated and delivered in the public sector. 

Despite respondents’ acknowledgment of cloud’s potential ROI, cloud-based spending increases in government were found to lag slightly behind those of other organizations.

Mirroring observations from the Government Accountability Office that federal agencies spent more than 75 percent of their total 2015 IT budgets on operations and maintenance, two-fifths of respondents said their organizations devoted 70 percent or more of annual IT budgets to on-premises (traditional) applications and infrastructure. Similar concerns were reported in 2016, with the need to support legacy systems among the top barriers to greater cloud adoption.

In addition to restraints imposed by legacy systems, some applications are not well suited to a cloud environment. Nearly 30 percent of survey respondents said they have migrated applications, databases and infrastructure to the cloud that were ultimately brought back on-premises, indicating that increased ROI may not be enough of a reason for a cloud deployment.  Those systems came back in-house because of security and compliance issues, followed by poor performance and technical challenges with actual migration, respondents said.

Security concerns in general, however, were less than those cited in last year’s report, where it was listed as the top challenge in managing hybrid environments. This year, respondents ranked lack of control/visibility into cloud security behind increased complexity, IT staff skills gap and performance visibility.

Another growing trend is the use of multicloud environments. Nearly two-thirds of government IT professionals said their organizations currently use up to three distinct cloud provider environments, with 9 percent using 10 or more. This finding shows that workloads are becoming increasingly distributed -- not only between on-premises and cloud, but among various cloud service providers themselves, SolarWinds said.

Not surprisingly, hybrid IT increases complexity and introduces challenges for IT managers. A lack of visibility between on-premises and cloud infrastructure, as well as the need to develop new skillsets to keep pace with changing environments, were cited by respondents as the top challenges this year. In 2016, by contrast, the biggest challenge was securing hybrid IT environments.

Read the full survey here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at or @sjaymiller.

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