FedRAMP recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, and since its inception, the program has authorized 80 products and more than 100 cloud service providers (CSPs) to work with Federal agencies. Despite a strong familiarity with the program, however, the sheer number of options can make the prospect of moving to the cloud feel both arduous and daunting for these agencies.
When moving to the cloud, government customers must think about the many moving parts that make up such a project including the resources they need to sustain their applications as well as the resources required to complete the actual migration. They also must consider the architecture, security policies, and model for operations and maintenance, as well as scope the size of the environment.
According to Carmen Krueger, senior vice president of cloud operations, SAP NS2, and Joe Moye, senior vice president of public sector, Virtustream, there are three critical components agencies need to be keenly aware of when evaluating cloud vendors. The factors are experience, customer references, and an understanding of the end user’s expectations.
Experience: When embarking on a cloud migration project and selecting a CSP, drill down to their level of experience. For example, do they have experience in the Federal market, security compliances, specific technology or application and platform stack that you want to implement?
Krueger and Moye know firsthand how critical experience can be. A few years ago, SAP NS2 and Virtustream joined forces with the goal of leveraging Virtustream’s FedRAMP accreditation, as well as their history and success with SAP HANA to provide a FedRAMP-certified cloud offering for government customers such as the Federal Civilian and Defense agencies, and state & local governments.
“Virtustream had migrated its first SAP Federal customer to the cloud by then, so we had an intimate knowledge of the process. We drew on that knowledge to work with SAP NS2 to jointly create the Secure SAP HANA Cloud,” Krueger said.
“The combined capabilities of our partnership enable us to provide a full suite of cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) capabilities, while also offering the full suite of managed services and migration services to ensure success,” Moye added.
Customer References: When selecting a CSP, it is critical that you get to know them and their past and current customers. Has the CSP successfully worked with customers similar to you? How did the implementation go? What are the lessons learned from their cloud projects? What processes do they use and how do they measure against it?
Recently, a major Federal agency was looking to migrate its financial applications to the cloud, namely to gain an economic advantage, deal with its shrinking budgets, and add efficiencies internally by outsourcing some of its managed services requirements. Virtustream and SAP NS2 helped to migrate a mission-critical SAP financial management system that is used by 20,000-plus employees to the cloud for this agency, and implemented a consumption-based model, which enabled them to substantively drive down costs.
“As this example illustrates, one of the most important things in evaluating cloud solutions is an understanding of what you are trying to get out of the initiative,” Krueger said. “Knowing what the customer needed enabled us to recommend a consumption-based model that best fit their needs.”
Krueger went on to explain, “We strive to provide a partnership that offers the best of both worlds in delivering SAP capabilities with unparalleled expertise in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and beyond. We want to allow our customers the flexibility to be as independent as needed in that delivery model as well as enable them to use their own resources alongside our managed services resources, and still provide a consistent IaaS solution. Customers don’t need to go to multiple vendors and service providers to bring together a transformational effort that crosses multiple teams, applications and technologies.”
Understanding of End User Expectations: It is incredibly important that the agency understand the expectations the CSP has of you and your staff in ultimately delivering against the cloud project. Identifying these expectations at the beginning helps ensure a successful move to the cloud.
“We have seen the greatest success with organizations that have a strong strategic planning process,” said Moye. “Taking the extra time to build a strong plan and understand all of the components are key factors in ensuring success.”
The number of FedRAMP-approved products will likely continue to grow. As customers begin to evaluate CSPs, it is critical that they ensure the CSP has experience relevant to the customer’s unique needs, ask for examples of previous implementations, and finally, understand expectations for both parties. Taking into consideration these elements, government organizations can confidently move to the cloud and find the right solution to meet their needs.