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Emerging Trends in Federal Cloud Computing

Published: June 17, 2015

Big DataCloud ComputingSoftware-Defined Infrastructure

The expanding use of cloud computing by federal agencies is having a transformative effect on federal IT.

Current discussions about the use of cloud computing by federal agencies tend focus on a few stock questions. Are agencies adopting cloud solutions or are they lagging? Are commercial clouds secure enough for agency use? Who’s received FedRAMP certification? These questions are worth asking, but they only get us so far when it comes to understanding the federal cloud market. To truly gain insight into what’s happening, we need to step back and look more broadly across the horizon. It is only then that we can discern the trends emerging in the distance, some of which are already having a lasting and transformative effect on federal IT.

Cloud Migration is a Journey not a Destination

Let’s start with migrating to the cloud. More often than not this process is discussed with the cloud as the destination, as if once an agency has migrated data to a commercial cloud or has begun consuming a commercial cloud service, it’s the end of the story. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that the adoption of cloud computing is part of a larger shift taking place within agency infrastructures. This is the shift toward an everything-over-Internet-Protocol (EoIP) state in which standardized hardware provides a unified environment for the use of software-defined solutions. Multiple agencies, including the Department of Defense and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, have found that engineering networks to use cloud solutions creates an environment that sets the stage for using software-defined capabilities. At Deltek, we believe this trend will continue and become more widespread, which is why we advise clients with software-defined offerings to approach the same people at agencies whom cloud vendors are engaging.

Data Management

If the advent of cloud has done one thing, it has made agencies acutely aware of weaknesses in their data management and data governance policies. At the heart of this trend is concern about the security of data in the cloud. In response, agencies are hiring Chief Data Officers and rapidly developing data management policies to govern how their data is migrated, stored, and used. The impact of this trend is showing up in contract requirements as vendors are required to provide greater transparency into their cloud operations and government access into commercial data centers.

Data Analysis

Related to the issue of data management is the realization on the part of Feds that they don’t have the expertise, funding, or personnel to employ big data analytics to the extent that they want. This is driving greater interest in adding analytics capabilities into contracted cloud efforts. As Jane Snowdon of IBM noted in a recent article, “over the next few years, the focus [of agencies] will increasingly shift to the cloud as it becomes more widely adopted and used for data analysis.” Despite wanting advanced analytic capabilities, agencies can’t afford to keep pace with their evolution so they’ll be content to let industry partners pick up the slack.

Implications

The three trends outlined above are but a few of the things bubbling beneath the surface of the federal cloud market once one gets past debates over the pace of cloud adoption and whether or not cloud computing is secure. Most interesting about these trends is the fact that it is the adoption of cloud which is driving their development. In this sense, cloud computing is proving to be both disruptive and inspiring.