Agencies Get Their Hybrid Cloud Reality Check

hybrid cloud multi cloud computing in the cloud

Pamela Wise-Martinez, chief cloud and enterprise data architect at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, discussed the opportunities for Federal agencies to shift from disparate multi-cloud environments to effective use of hybrid cloud – marrying together on-prem, private, and public cloud use.

She noted several enterprise challenges stemming from the prior cloud procurement landscape and highlighted how governance is now necessary to achieve better interoperability between agencies’ infrastructure and their myriad software-as-a-service products. She added that on-prem refreshes may allow agencies to take advantage of hyperconverged infrastructure and ultimately improve operational efficiency.

Wise-Martinez spoke Wednesday at a cloud computing event hosted by FCW on the precarious multi-cloud situation that agencies find themselves in.

Cloud

Wise-Martinez, who has held several senior roles in support of enterprise IT architecture at the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, recalled how agency business units were driving acquisition in the early cloud days, leading to a lot of software-as-a-service purchases for things like cloud enterprise email, productivity suites, and a whole host of other solutions.

“We’ve got everything you can possibly think of happening on your network, but we didn’t realize what those enterprise challenges were,” she said. “What we weren’t really doing was thinking about the data, and all the interconnectivities, and all the interoperability issues, all the challenges behind networks.”

She acknowledged that agencies were building a knowledge base and increasing “intellectual capital” about what could be done with infrastructure and platform-as-a-service, but the scattershot SaaS environment was already presenting mounting challenges.

“We didn’t really think about that integration part. Hybrid cloud is the reality check,” she said. “Some of the things that you have on your infrastructure need to talk to the things that are in the cloud. So now how are you going to do that? You don’t have a standard.”

She said governance has now become indispensable to reel in the currently piecemeal landscape, and that a playbook is essential to work through some of the challenges of multi-cloud. She suggested that agencies must go back to “engineering 101” to determine the way applications interact with one another and with data from multiple sources. “We don’t really talk about a strategy for those interfaces,” she said.

Wise-Martinez noted that for many agencies, it might not be possible to audit thousands of applications now running in the cloud, but she said an appropriate assessment of software is necessary.

On-Prem

Wise-Martinez discussed original data center consolidation efforts like FDCCI, recalling how the process actually ended up identifying thousands more Federal data centers. She said, “At the end of the day, it was a great idea. It was a great thing to do to try to figure out how we’re going to make this monstrosity of development, engineering, project management, procurement, life-cycle.”

In terms of how to modernize agency systems, though, she declared, “That infrastructure piece is really your next target.”

So how do we get there? Wise-Martinez identified hyperconverged infrastructure as a potential “IT opportunity” for many agency use cases.

“It could be the solution for some of the things that you’re trying to do,” she said. “When we talk about next-generation stuff, why does it matter to care about multi-cloud and hybrid cloud? It’s because you’re going to probably end up somewhere in this vicinity. You’re going to probably end up trying to figure out how to converge that data center.”

The line of thinking–efficient, compact on-premises resources will allow for seamless interaction with your in-the-cloud resources. At the end of the day, she said, “It matters because it costs.”

It might be hard to cut a path forward due to the way the market has shaped agency IT architecture, but there are signposts along the way. Ultimately, Wise-Martinez said, it “all comes down to operational performance, because that’s really where the rubber hits the road.”

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