The 21st Century Data Center

One of the best ways an agency can move toward modernizing its data centers is to start with a private cloud. Functioning as the nerve center of an agency’s data center requirements, a private cloud is a natural hub from which to grow a multi-cloud data center solution.

When done well, this model expands agencies’ agility, flexibility, scalability and cost optimization, while allowing agencies to keep legacy applications and systems operational as long as they’re needed. According to a Meritalk survey released this year, 64 percent of federal IT managers say their agency’s data center acquisitions are beginning to shift toward utility-based or pay-as-you-go models.

An agency’s private cloud should be efficient, agile, secure and automated, whether hosted in a different facility or on premise, whether self-managed or managed by a third party.

The private cloud that serves as the hub of a multi-cloud solution should run management/orchestration software that controls all other clouds. This is also the place to implement automated software that provisions resources on demand from whatever cloud resource is most appropriate. If Microsoft Azure is the most economical approach for specific requirements requested by a user, for example, the automated tool should automatically provision those resources.

The private cloud also should provide full visibility into resources and dependencies across clouds, measure service integrity, enforce security policies and ensure compliance. In the case of Defense agencies, it should also house and oversee the continuous monitoring required by the Risk Management Framework.

It’s also a place where agencies can safely and securely test cloud applications before moving them to a public cloud.

“The key to an effective, multi-cloud data center strategy is making sure your private cloud infrastructure has the automation necessary to move workloads, the ability to provision resources, and the analytics that allows you to determine whether or not you are putting your workloads in the right places,” says Jim Smid, chief technology officer of Iron Bow Technologies.  “Analytics also are critical to maintaining peak availability and security of applications and proactively preventing problems.”

With a private cloud hub in place, the next step is choosing the right mix of public clouds – a mix that will provide the best agility, performance, security, compliance and cost. This requires understanding the cost structure and capabilities of all cloud computing platforms under consideration. With the right mix of clouds, agencies will have the capacity to adopt new technologies and manage vast amounts of data.

Choosing the right mix of public cloud technology isn’t an easy task for agencies constrained by specific requirements and limited financial resources. Jason Lamb, a cloud solution architect at Intel, says experts familiar with many different cloud vendors and tools are indispensable when developing cloud solutions.

“It’s about developing a custom recipe that works best for an agency,” he says. “It’s got to fit the environment, allow agencies to continue using legacy applications, as necessary, and enable the agency to move forward at their own pace.”