Adopting Cloud Around Agency Structure is Key

(Illustration: Shutterstock)

Adopting cloud isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition for Federal agencies. Instead, agencies looking to modernize their enterprise IT are customizing their adoption approach to fit their agencies’ structure, according to government and industry executives leading a Capital Exchange webinar on July 12.

“All of these efforts, like the DCOI (Data Center Optimization Initiative) … have been driving infrastructure optimization and infrastructure efficiency, and cloud is just one more piece of that,” said Todd Simpson, chief product officer for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

For some agencies, cloud offers a huge opportunity to completely transform processes.

“For those legacy systems, we are really committed to migrating as many of those as possible to leading commercial cloud providers, because it’s exponentially less expensive, while at the same time it provides much better performance,” noted Kelly O’Connor, product manager for the U.S. Digital Service’s Veterans Administration (VA) digital service team. O’Connor noted that the VA had launched 50 customer-facing products in the last 3 years by leveraging cloud to migrate applications.

As Federal IT leaders, vendors, and integrators look to improve their infrastructure, they must adapt to the realities of their agencies.

“We kind of have two trains on two tracks,” said Michelle Sparrow-Walker, director of the Systems and Integration office within the Department of State’s Information Resource Management Bureau. “IT at the Department is decentralized … so our business units have independently moved out to acquire solutions that meet their individual business needs but from an enterprise perspective, the CIO has been focused on moving mail to the cloud, collaboration, file storage, and things of that nature.”

“There’s some residue racks you have to have to operate in today’s connected world,” added Greg Garcia, CIO for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Garcia emphasized the importance of working around limitations. “The network is kind of the highway, but what we’re also looking at is, what data are we pushing around? Is there a more efficient way to push less data around where we cannot clog the highway. It’s kind of a two-thrust [approach], improve the roads but improve the carpooling on the roads.”

“We really work with our customers to determine, is the driver from a cost savings perspective, is it from an agility and speed perspective, or is it a security and disaster recovery perspective,” explained Angie Heise, president of the civil group for Leidos.

Although agencies are taking different approaches to cloud adoption, all participants were excited at the new capabilities that cloud brings.

“The cloud is not all about just production capability. The cloud offers the ability to spin up development and tests so much faster,” said Garcia. “What you risk are pennies versus hundreds of dollars when you go through old-school development,” Garcia added.

O’Connor noted that the VA quickly created an online application for healthcare that raised the number of veterans applying online from 10 percent to 40 percent. Heise noted that Leidos is able to reuse parts of the code to build enterprise applications, such as systems for healthcare or portals for enterprise IT.

Simpson noted that during his time as the CIO of the Food and Drug Administration, the agency used cloud to support microservices in testing genetic sequencing. “There is a cost at the backend, you have to invest in that automation technology if you want to be nimble, but there is definitely huge business value.”

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