Federal cloud integration advanced significantly in 2014

Cloud integration is no longer a consideration for federal agencies – it's a requirement. Every department, from the State Department to NASA to the Department of Defense and beyond, is now fully moving toward cloud implementation. Some have moved a tremendous amount of their data and operations into cloud environments already, while others are not yet at this stage.

Ultimately, though, there can be little doubt that federal cloud integration advanced significantly in 2014, as FedScoop contributor Greg Otto recently highlighted. And there's good reason to believe that 2015 will see this trend accelerate further.

Federal cloud progress
According to Otto, cloud integration became such a powerful force in 2014 that it is "almost impossible to talk about a federal agency's mission over the course of the past year without the conversation quickly turning to its use of cloud computing." 

The single best example of this trend, Otto asserted, is the CIA's $600 million cloud contract with Amazon Web Services. Obviously, the CIA possesses some of the most sensitive and classified information in the country and is therefore particularly concerned with data security. The fact that the CIA has not only begun to embrace the cloud, but reached such a large agreement suggests that the agency is fully confident in the cloud's security. This provided a powerful signal to other agency leaders, indicating that they, too, can and should consider moving their operations to the cloud on a broader scale. 

2014 also saw the DOD announce plans to revise its own approach to cloud computing. Specifically, the organization announced that the Defense Information Systems Agency will no longer be the DOD's sole cloud services broker, as it was in the past. Instead, DISA will take on more of a consulting role and DOD organizations will gain the ability to make their own cloud implementation decisions. This will significantly improve DOD cloud integration in the coming year as organizations will have the authority to take more initiative in terms of cloud selection and deployment.

Just as importantly, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program significantly refined its processes in 2014, Otto noted. He explained that these changes have made it easier for cloud services providers to receive certification, allowing them to offer their solutions to government agencies. One of the key ways by which FedRAMP improved and sped up its certification process was through the introduction of the FedRAMP Ready program.

"Agencies can use this documentation to initiate an assessment and authorize these systems in a faster time than starting from scratch," said Matt Goodrich, acting director of FedRAMP, the source reported.

Somewhat similarly, DISA released a draft of new cloud security requirements recently. These requirements serve to ensure that any cloud services utilized by DOD organizations meet a higher cybersecurity barrier than those used by the federal government in general, due to the sensitive nature of DOD operations and information. Again, this will make it easier for DOD organizations to successfully, safely embrace the cloud, while also enabling cloud vendors to meet federal clients' needs and objectives.

Assistance in 2015
Clearly, 2014 saw significant federal progress toward cloud integration. Just as importantly, many agencies took steps to set themselves up for even greater success in the coming year. However, making further strides toward broad cloud adoption will not necessarily be a simple process, even with these improved policies. To truly push their cloud implementation efforts to the next level, agencies will likely need to seek out the assistance of a third-party cloud integration specialist with government experience. Such a firm can help guide federal agencies through selection and deployment, as well as provide ongoing support.