Federal cloud integration efforts making strong progress

The federal government is increasingly turning its attention and resources toward cloud integration efforts, with significant results to show for these endeavors. As E-Commerce Times recently reported, cloud adoption is growing, and quickly approaching a more advanced level of maturity.

Cloud in the government
The news source pointed out that last year officials projected that U.S. agencies would spend approximately $2.2 billion on cloud projects in fiscal year 2014. However, it is now clear that the departments will ultimately spend closer to $3 billion during this period. Clearly, the federal government's efforts to embrace the cloud are outpacing expectations.

With one notable exception – a Social Security Administration cloud project that accounted for $141 million – this increase in cloud spending is not attributable to a small number of major efforts, but rather to many widespread, small-scale efforts, as IDC Research Director Shawn McCarthy told the news source.

Furthermore, McCarthy noted that the government as a whole has widely adopted a cloud-first approach to new IT projects. He therefore thinks that it is very likely that 2015 will see even greater government spending on cloud adoption efforts.

"The boost in cloud spending does not necessarily mean agencies are going over budget for cloud projects," McCarthy elaborated, the news source reported. "In fact, the increase is more a factor of IT planners realizing they can do some things cheaper in the cloud, and electing to redirect some of their IT dollars there in order to spark long-term savings."

This suggests that while cloud expenditures are rising, overall IT spending may dip in the near future as the savings from cloud-based efforts begin to emerge more significantly.

NASA leading the way
One federal agency that's seen a particularly high degree of success with its cloud adoption efforts is NASA. In approximately one and a half years, NASA managed to move 110 applications and websites from its legacy, on-premise systems into cloud-based environments, Computerworld recently reported. This represented a major effort on the part of both NASA and the third-party cloud integrator firm hired to assist with the project.

Part of the challenge inherent to this effort, and many other cloud migration initiatives, is the fact that infrastructure must remain available and functioning at all times, even while being moved between environments.

Additionally, much of the information stored by NASA and other agencies is extremely sensitive, and therefore requires an even greater focus on cybersecurity when being moved to or stored in cloud solutions.

These factors suggest that while government agencies should be eager to take advantage of the cloud, adoption efforts must be carefully considered and thoroughly planned. A rushed deployment will almost certainly undermine the technology, resulting in both inefficiencies and potential security risks. Considering the stakes involved with government assets, including constituent data, such risks are not acceptable for most agencies. Partnering with a qualified third-party consulting firm may be essential for departments as they continue to pursue cloud integration strategies for more of their operations.

The ultimate benefits provided by cloud services, though, easily make these efforts worthwhile. Roopangi Kadakia, Web services executive for NASA, explained that by moving applications into the cloud, NASA saw a 40 percent year-over-year cost savings on operations and maintenance. She also noted that putting these resources in the cloud has made it easier for employees to collaborate. NASA may also eventually turn to the cloud to provide disaster recovery as a service.

Similar benefits are available to any and all governmental bodies leveraging the cloud, but only when the integration process is handled smoothly and effectively.