Agencies Thinking Bigger, Broader on Cloud Workloads

Government agencies may finally be getting a handle on cloud, according to a major cloud service provider, as the breadth of Federal use cases in the cloud expands rapidly.

Agencies are shifting to increasingly complex cloud architectures and workloads to accelerate the pace of government modernization, said Nicci Neal, senior business development manager of Amazon Web Services’ GovCloud, at AWS’ Public Sector Summit Wednesday.

And in addition to the boost cloud is providing to their agility, resilience, and mission assurance, agencies are also gaining new insights on their data through advanced business intelligence and analytics, according to Tony Peralta, manager of the data architecture branch at the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service.

“Our customers are definitely becoming much more sophisticated users of AWS, and on the GovCloud platform, they are architecting increasingly more sophisticated and complex architectures. And we see a wide diversity in terms of the types of use cases our customers are bringing to the platform,” Neal said.

AWS GovCloud (US) is an isolated cloud region–subject to both FedRAMP High and Moderate baselines–that allows Federal customers to host sensitive controlled unclassified information (CUI) and regulated workloads.

The main business case for cloud in Federal agencies, Neal said, remains Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) goals around shuttering Federal data centers or shifting them to the cloud.

“Data center migration continues to lead the modernization charge for our customers,” she said, but added that many agencies aren’t just seeking to comply with policies when choosing cloud.

“They’re really fully embracing cloud and looking at it in terms of enterprise IT. And so, how they’re going to use that in terms of their IT service model and service delivery, not only within the enterprise, but through a shared services perspective,” Neal said.

She noted several areas–governance and security at scale, software procurement, enterprise resource planning, and customer service management portals–where increasing government interest can be seen and noted that the recent Technology Modernization Fund award winners provide an example of how agencies are really looking into new areas as they build wining business cases.

Peralta discussed one of those new areas of government investment, as his department is rolling out advanced business intelligence at scale. The Bureau of Fiscal Service is using data lakes–vast repositories of raw, unstructured data that can be queried to extract insights or analyzed to answer a business question.

The bureau is using big data to aid in more effective debt collection for the Federal government. While that might be a sore subject for some, there is a slightly more benevolent goal as well–providing better customer service.

The bureau’s cloud architecture ingests large sets of voice files, transcribes them to text and, using models and sentiment analysis, “can actually demonstrate in real time how our calls are being handled by our call centers,” Peralta said. Changes in voice inflection tied to typical sentiments–anger, approval, surprise–can be analyzed to provide active feedback on call center performance.

Other use cases Peralta flagged include document image processing and early stages of deep learning to take human eyes away from clerical forms and onto higher value work at the bureau. The examples make a strong case that innovation through cloud automation is slowly but surely transforming the way Federal agencies do business.

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