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How state and local government can leverage hybrid cloud

State and local government agencies are gravitating toward a hybrid cloud infrastructure to move faster, consolidate resources, save money and scale independently with consistent management between public and private clouds. In fact, four in 10 agency decision-makers indicated their agencies are already using a hybrid cloud, according to a recently released Center for Digital Government survey. Respondents also said that, on average, 37% of their agency’s workload is now in the cloud.

Obstacles remain, however: The survey found that data mobility, security and compliance are the biggest cloud migration challenges for state and local agencies. Allocating funding for migration and ensuring staff have the required training and skills were also significant concerns. Addressing these challenges and maximizing a hybrid cloud environment will prove vital to agency IT modernization efforts.

Enabling data mobility

A successful hybrid cloud  allows for interoperability of applications and components across boundaries (for example, cloud vs. on‐premises), between cloud instances and even between traditional and modern digital architectures. The same access flexibility is also needed for data. Whether agencies are handling workloads or datasets, they must plan for things to move around in response to evolving needs. Where applications or data are housed today might not be the best place over time.

While survey respondents said 65% of their workload can be migrated to the cloud, challenges remain. From the birth of the hybrid cloud concept, agencies have dreamed of achieving free-flowing workload migration. Moving or migrating data and applications from on-premises to the public cloud has theoretically been possible for some time, but in practice it has proved difficult.

Seamless data and application mobility involves a significant security component as well: If agencies need the flexibility to move data between different cloud and on-premises environments, they must have confidence in securing this data both in transit and at rest.

When asked to rank their top three security concerns, respondents focused on data breaches, account hijacking and data recovery -- responses that speak to the myriad threats agencies face today. For cloud security in particular, the survey affirms why state and local agencies still find appeal in private and hybrid cloud environments: 32% of respondents are "very confident" in private cloud security, compared to 17% for hybrid cloud and 16% for public cloud.

Finally, many state and local agencies face increasingly stringent compliance requirements for data protection and retention. Some data must be maintained for several years, while other data must be  stored permanently in a way that demands a dynamic, scalable retention strategy that is also efficient and cost effective.

Maximizing a hybrid cloud environment

Cloud data mobility and security considerations will remain top of mind, but they should not impede agency momentum toward a cloud or hybrid cloud model. As agencies seek to achieve flexibility in their IT environment, here are four ways they can get value from the vast amount of data they've collected:

1. Understand workloads and data on a macro scale, but with visibility on a micro scale. To fully understand the hybrid cloud environment, agencies need a clear and precise understanding of the workloads and the datasets within that environment. An IDC study titled Strategies for Gaining Insight into Your Cloud Infrastructure calls for building “data maps,” which include data, key owners, security requirements, sensitivity levels, data sources and any other key metrics.

When this information has been assembled, agencies can get a holistic view of their data and workloads. It’s also easier to manage workloads and identify data trends that might have been previously siloed. A more collaborative and comprehensive data map offers new insights and opportunities for business decisions to become more data-driven.

2. Be honest about service option costs. Just like a holistic picture of workloads and data, agencies also need a firm understanding of the real costs of service options. What up-front costs are required? What hidden costs might be exposed later? What’s the total cost of ownership over time, and does it match the value of the data?

For optimal operation, cloud solutions should be tailored -- not one-size-fits-all -- so creating an environment based specifically on an agency's needs and budget is key. As agencies create their hybrid cloud strategy, they must consider existing costs and evaluate what options they have as they move data into the cloud environment.

3. Empower customers with strategic data placement. IDC’s study points out that the “right” data placement is crucial for organizations employing a hybrid cloud approach. Many sensitive datasets must remain under the agency’s direct control, while others need to be mobile across different locations. By dispersing data correctly, an agency can provide rapid, reliable data access for customers globally.

The right data placement also enables hybrid cloud environments to provide data and data insights faster, while still complying with regulations and avoiding content siloes.

4. Put AI and machine learning to work. Agencies that understand the future power of artificial intelligence and machine learning for cloud data storage and management are often those that meet the expectations of their constituents and stakeholders today.

An AI-enabled cloud environment learns from the data that it gathers, makes predictions and proactively troubleshoots potential problems. IDC predicts that AI’s ability to drive self-configurable and self-healing infrastructures will enable systems to minimize or even eliminate human errors.

AI and machine learning can also be used for seamless data transfer between an on-premises infrastructure and a cloud environment. In a hybrid cloud environment, seamless movement, accessibility and connectivity are crucial. By using AI in a hybrid cloud setup, agencies can maximize its data control, agility and security.

About the Author

Meghan Steele is senior director of state & local government education at NetApp.

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