SBA sets up virtual desktops for pandemic response
Cloud capabilities allowed the Small Business Administration to virtualize desktops for incoming employees that support its loan programs.
Federal agencies have “come a long way” since the early days of cloud adoption, according to Bill Zielinski, assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology Category in the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service. Speaking during a May 7 GSA cloud adoption webinar, Zielinski said “cloud computing is now fundamental” in the federal government.
The Small Business Administration leveraged the cloud for its work in pandemic response, said Bill Hunt, the agency’s chief enterprise architect. Cloud capabilities, he said, allowed it to virtualize desktops for incoming employees that support its loan programs.
That flexibility, Hunt said, allowed SBA to set up employees on secure virtual desktops without having to worry about physically securing actual machines. The agency has been pushing to get advanced security capabilities too, as its cloud evolves.
“We’ve been really aggressive on cloud security models. We’re leaders in using TIC 3.0” and defining network perimeters, he said. “We’re moving security closer to the data and away from the perimeters,” he said, relying more on zero trust security models and less on endpoint security.
The pandemic has burnished the decade-old cloud effort, Zielinski said, adding that agencies that have been the most nimble in shifting to telework during the pandemic had strong cloud strategies before the crisis hit.
SBA, which already had experience with disaster support and small business loans, spent 50 intense days planning and executing a plan to implement IT to support public-facing portals and services for COVID-19 response, CIO Maria Roat said during an April 30 ACT IAC teleconference.
Some federal agencies, first have individual business units adopt cloud, without an overarching business goal for the entire agency, said Syed Azeem, director of GSA’s Center of Excellence for Cloud Adoption. “They have to have some strategic vision,” he said.
Effective cloud strategies have robust planning behind them, Zielinski said. “It concerns me that the motivation to migrate is often to meet a mandate. Sometimes checking a [compliance] box becomes overriding and hampers the overall value” of the move to cloud, he said.