Government agencies approaching tipping point with cloud adoption

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It has been nearly five years since Vivek Kundra, then CIO for the US federal government, announced a “cloud first” approach to federal IT. Now, a new report from Forbes Insights and Microsoft argues there is a tipping point for government agencies.

Curt Kolcun, vice president of US public sector at Microsoft, notes: “Initial concerns around moving to the cloud are being countered by real-world government success stories.” In other words, worries about data sovereignty, privacy and security are slowly being dissipated.

The report comes with interesting real life examples, including the state of Alabama, whose secretary of information technology Brunson White called cloud “transformative.” Stephen DePooter, CIO for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said the agency “will be going to the cloud whenever it can.”

The research found that, primarily, the journey to the cloud by most government agencies gets off to a slow start; email, or office productivity software – low risk migration paths – are naturally the first to move over. Increasingly, the rise of authorised data security standards and processes, such as the Federal Risk and Authorisation Management Program (FedRAMP), help ease the burden for government execs. Microsoft, HP and Amazon are among the list of accredited vendors.

DePooter notes five key areas where the cloud has been able to benefit his agency: speed – outlining and documentation of needs, training and implementation took 16 weeks from start to finish – security; scalability – spinning up additional resources as fast as the service level agreement allows – interoperability; and cost-effectiveness.

“What was really great about this is the way it can be configured,” he added. “If you want to change the look, or design a new report, it’s really easy. To make any kind of change in the past meant needing technical development and that took us into IT governance procedures. But now that functionality is at that user’s fingertips – it no longer requires high end, technical development.”

Back in July, IBM, alongside AT&T and KPMG, won a contract to help move the state of California to the cloud. CloudTech spoke with George Cruser, general manager infrastructure for IBM Global Technology Services. He said: “What we’ve agreed in the contract is to make sure that the department has the expertise to run it if they elect to run it. One of the requirements was they would have a full understanding as opposed to pure outsourcing.”

When asked whether other states would follow suit, Cruser noted: “We’re working with a couple of states who are very much interested in the concept. Everybody is trying to figure out – how do we get into cloud safely and securely? California is clearly a leader in showing they’ve essentially built a private cloud for multi-tenant use.”

You can read the full Forbes/Microsoft report here.

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