DevOps may help accelerate federal cloud integration efforts

Cloud integration remains a top-level focus for IT leaders throughout the federal government. There is a growing awareness among decision-makers, both in and beyond the IT department, that the cloud has the potential to vastly improve government operations, drive down costs and add new capabilities. And, indeed, the government has made significant strides toward adopting and deploying cloud solutions – the recent Congressional Cloud Computing Caucus report noted that cloud-related services account for 8.5 percent of all federal spending, which is on par with private sector efforts.

At the same time, though, it is clear to see that more progress remains to be made. What is less apparent is how federal agencies can encourage such advances.

According to a recent MeriTalk survey, one key factor that could potentially have a powerful impact in this capacity is DevOps. The report revealed that many federal IT leaders believe DevOps adoption could lead directly to broader cloud integration.

Cloud obstacles
The survey included insight from more than 150 U.S. federal IT managers, asking participants about the obstacles standing in the way of broader cloud adoption, as well as the value that the cloud holds for their organizations. 

"Two-thirds of respondents said moving more IT services into the cloud is necessary."

Two-thirds of respondents said that moving more IT services into the cloud is necessary in order to better meet their constituents' needs and fulfill their missions. A slightly higher percentage said that the cloud will boost innovation, and 62 percent said broader cloud integration would result in more available, reliable and secure operations overall.

However, the report also found that a number of challenges are preventing federal agencies from fully taking advantage of this technology. Notably 42 percent of participants said that infrastructure complexity is a leading obstacle, while 40 percent point to a general fear of change among federal work forces. Inflexible practices and the lack of a clear strategy were also widely seen as problems standing in the way of widespread cloud integration.

In total, only 44 percent of federal agencies have made process or policy changes in regard to cloud computing, while 30 percent have addressed cultural issues. Perhaps most significantly only 12 percent of survey participants said their agencies' IT departments have all the tools they need to transition to the cloud.

"57% said DevOps would enable agencies to better embrace cloud computing."

DevOps benefits
In terms of how to move forward with cloud integration goals, embracing DevOps methodologies was a leading strategy. Fifty-seven percent of respondents claimed that DevOps would enable agencies to better succeed in the realm of cloud computing. 

"We've heard a lot about cloud barriers, and we've all seen the lackluster GAO cloud spending data," said Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk. "This study highlights a viable path forward. DevOps can help agencies change lanes and shift from inefficient silos to a dynamic, collaborative environment."

"It's about people and how they work together, as well as the technology they use," O'Keeffe added.

Tim Hoechst, chief technology officer for Accenture's federal services, emphasized that DevOps "brings software engineering, quality assurance and IT operations together as an integrated team." This allows organizations, including federal agencies, to become more innovative.

Of course, to see these benefits, agencies need to know how to embrace DevOps. This is easier said than done. In order to move forward with such efforts, the assistance of a reliable third-party consulting firm, one with robust DevOps and Agile experience, can be essential.