Federal government moving toward hybrid cloud deployments

The federal government has proven itself to be fairly forward-thinking when it comes to cloud integration. Cloud computing has grown increasingly popular among private sector firms, of course, but government agencies have also recognized the value that this technology has to offer and taken steps to leverage these resources. 

As cloud solutions have matured, many organizations have moved beyond purely public or private cloud deployments. Instead, firms are increasingly turning to hybrid implementations in order to maximize benefits while maintaining security standards and minimizing costs. And, once again, the federal government is keeping pace, as Fed Tech Magazine recently reported.

"Combining in-house databases with cloud services is more efficient and effective."

Hybrid cloud for the federal government
The source noted that the Department of Transportation is currently in the process of building a hybrid cloud solution as it strives to develop a new data visualization system. Leading the way on this project is Maria Roat, DOT's chief technology officer and the former director of FedRAMP. According to Roat, combining in-house databases with cloud services will yield a more efficient, effective solution. She emphasized that the user experience will improve, without putting any burden on federal employees.

"The source data is in our data centers, and then you have two other public cloud solutions that are working together," said Roat, according to the news provider. "The end user is using one solution, the visualization tool. They wouldn't need to know what's on the back end of it."

Similarly, the Environment Protection Agency's CIO, Ann Dunkin, is eager to embrace hybrid cloud solutions, Fed Tech Magazine reported. Dunkin believes that a hybrid approach will help to deliver a smoother experience for agency researchers who depend upon the EPA's high-performance computing center. Currently, retrieving data from this center can be an extremely long process, which hampers users' productivity. The cloud's scalability, combined with the EPA's on-premise computers, will be able to ramp up performance quickly and effectively.

Somewhat conversely, the Securities and Exchange Commission has adopted hybrid cloud integration solutions that enable the agency to store its data in cloud environments and process the information locally.{the Dyson quote below says the opposite of this. They keep the data, the cloud is where it's computed} As Pamela Dyson, CIO of the SEC, explained to the source, hybrid cloud solutions provide a critical balance of performance and security.

"We may have some systems that will never be hosted in a public cloud," said Dyson, according to Fed Tech Magazine. "I think we will have a number of these hybrid solutions, where we own and host our own data, and we use the cloud only for the compute capability."

"The cloud provides more effective, faster test and development environments."

Flexibility benefits
The advantages offered by hybrid cloud deployments can also be seen in the context of how other agencies have benefited from cloud integration in general. For example, Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Innovation Officer Dan Doney, speaking at the ATARC Federal Cloud Computing Summit, recently emphasized that while many may initially turn to the cloud for its potential cost savings, that has not proven to be the technology's biggest advantage for his organization. Instead, he noted that the cloud has proven its value by providing more effective, faster test and development environments.

"The biggest benefits have been DevOps, data science and tool evaluation," he said, according to NextGov. "Those three things are the real benefits of cloud if you choose to do it that way."

These advantages are particularly pronounced for intelligence agencies, Doney explained, because they need to respond quickly to emerging national security issues, according to the source.

And while all of these benefits are inherent to cloud computing in general, they are even more pronounced when it comes to hybrid cloud solutions. With hybrid cloud deployments, agencies can choose between private and public environments for their various workloads. This allows departments to balance security, efficiency and accessibility, all while maximizing scalability and speed.

Moving ahead with hybrid
Given these benefits, and the hybrid adoption efforts already in progress, it's clear to see that more government agencies will likely embrace these deployments in the coming months. In order to ensure that such efforts prove successful, though, agency leaders need to work closely with third-party cloud integration services providers.

This is thanks to the fact that hybrid cloud environments can be significantly more complex than purely public or private cloud solutions. This unavoidable complexity has the potential to lead to serious complications, which in turn can undermine the value that hybrid solutions are intended to provide. Hybrid cloud deployments, just like more standardized cloud solutions, are only useful when they are designed with the specific organization's unique needs and goals in mind.

Many groups, including federal agencies, simply do not have sufficient personnel with cloud expertise on staff to effectively tackle this issue. Or, alternatively, IT staff will be forced to dedicate an excessive amount of their time and energy to these issues. Third-party consultants with robust expertise, on the other hand, can make hybrid deployments a viable, easy option.

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