The cloud is the perfect platform for business service modernization and innovation.
Across the globe, government agencies are increasingly leveraging cloud computing in their business services and functions. The driving force behind this transformation is a desire to modernize government IT -- to bypass the red tape and bureaucracy that has kept agencies from benefiting from the incredible innovation occurring in the tech industry.
But the move to the cloud is not without its challenges. In addition to the logistical issues -- education, training, planning, new processes, new tools, new technologies -- agencies face a new and different approach to projects and procurement.
For those still deciding whether going to the cloud is the right choice, here are the top five reasons for making the move today.
#5: Modernize. The cloud is the perfect platform for business service modernization. It provides a rich portfolio of applications, infrastructure and services that are ready to be used. It offers access to both traditional services available in most data centers (e.g. virtualized compute and storage), managed services (e.g. hosted database), purpose-build services (e.g. machine learning, analytics) and turnkey applications.
Another benefit is that some or all of the management of these applications, services and infrastructure will be owned by the cloud service provider, freeing agencies from owning systems' management from procurement to retirement. In addition, the innovation in clouds today is unparalleled in the tech industry, almost guaranteeing that an investment in the cloud will remain modern for years to come.
#4: Refocus on the mission. Technology is a means to fulfill government agencies' missions, but is not a mission unto itself. Any investment in technology must have a direct line toward supporting the mission and must also come with a clear return on investment for the use of taxpayer dollars. The core services that IT departments have provided for the last two decades are rapidly being commoditized in the cloud, which allows them to refocus on delivering value to the mission rather than continuing to invest in commodities.
Instead of purchasing hardware and software that must be upgraded and managed through its lifecycle, the cloud allows IT departments to cede much (and in some cases all) of this work to third-party providers. For example, when agencies migrate a workload to a public cloud compute service, they delegate the management of the hardware, the network and some of the security to the provider, thereby eliminating the need to carry this burden.
#3: Reduce costs. The dirty little secret is that in most enterprise use cases, the cloud is more expensive than on-premise solutions. It's only when an application is wired to take advantage of the fabric of the cloud (e.g. elasticity, platform services, auction-based compute, serverless) that the platform can deliver a compelling cost efficiency over the data center.
This equation is not applicable to the public sector, however. The fully loaded costs of running applications and infrastructure in the public sector are substantially more than what the private sector pays. This increase comes from the higher cost of doing business with the government, such as higher security, higher reliability, regulatory compliance and a more complex sales process. As a result, the cloud offers a compelling and cost-effective alternative to on-premise in the public sector.
#2: Leverage a rich portfolio. The cloud lets agencies leverage a rich portfolio of infrastructure, platform and software services. Although many government IT managers may struggle with choosing the best provider, they should take some advice from the private sector. The question is not, "Which cloud should I use?" Rather, it's "Which clouds should I use?"
While there is quite a bit of commonality in infrastructure-as-a-service offerings across clouds, differentiated value is seen further up the stack. Rather than sticking with a single provider who may have the best compute and storage services, but lacks the best serverless or machine learning choices, agencies should adopt a portfolio of IaaS, platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service options that supports their business needs both now and in the future.
The higher one progresses up the application stack, the more divergence there is between cloud providers. That suggests that in the future, no single cloud provider will meet all an agency's needs. Leveraging a pervasively heterogeneous portfolio is the best way to meet current and future business needs in government.
#1: Unleash innovation. There was a time, not long ago, when specific business services could not viably run in the public cloud because of performance or security constraints. The unstated assumption was that all business services/applications could run inside the data center.
Today we live in a world where the exact opposite is true. There are many applications that leverage machine learning, storage, burst compute that would be hard (if not impossible) to build and run inside a data center.
The cloud can be a platform for constant and ongoing innovation within the public sector. It can deliver unique solutions to hard problems and presents an opportunity for substantial technology transformation. There is no time like the present for government agencies to transition to the cloud and unlock unparalleled innovation.