Hybrid cloud for government: The best of both worlds

Cloud computing's appeal for federal government agencies is obvious: With the cloud, departments can potentially decrease costs, increase flexibility and offer new IT capabilities across the board. Government leaders have seen these benefits play out throughout the private sector and are naturally eager to experience similar results for themselves.

To a certain extent, government agencies have been successful in this regard. The federal government has significantly increased its reliance on cloud solutions in recent years, and is likely to see even greater adoption going forward. Yet a number of challenges – most notably cloud security concerns – have prevented agencies from fully embracing cloud services to the greatest possible effect.

"A hybrid cloud approach maximizes benefits without compromising security."

This is why a growing number of federal agencies should turn to hybrid cloud deployments. A hybrid cloud approach offers the best possible strategy for maximizing benefits without compromising security. However, to achieve this goal, high-level cloud integration expertise is essential, highlighting the need for third-party guidance.

The cloud dilemma
Ever since U.S. established its Cloud First policy in 2010, cloud adoption among federal agencies has increased significantly, and the results have been dramatic. A recent Congressional Research Service report noted six key benefits agencies have reaped from their growing use of cloud services, including reduced costs, superior availability and reliability, greater energy efficiency and improved agility.

Yet despite all of these advantages, federal entities are still struggling to migrate operations into cloud environments. And as has always been the case, security remains the biggest impediment. A recent MeriTalk survey of 150 public sector IT professionals found that three-fourths of respondents want to migrate more data and services into cloud environments but are hesitant to do so because of cybersecurity concerns. Nearly one-third said they that agency data simply could not be moved to the cloud because of security restrictions. Ultimately, only 19 percent said they are now delivering a quarter or more of their agencies' IT services via cloud solutions.

That's not all. Another major obstacle preventing broader cloud adoption among federal agencies is legacy IT. As Mike Youngers, director of U.S. federal systems engineering with Cisco, explained, decision-makers are reluctant to embrace any cloud solutions that may cause interoperability issues with preexisting IT.

"Particularly with mission-critical systems, Feds want assurance they can integrate with legacy tools, and easily migrate data between the two," Youngers stated.

The hybrid solution
A hybrid approach to cloud integration can allow federal agencies to overcome both of these issues, all while optimizing IT performance across the board. 

With a hybrid strategy, a government agency has the option to keep certain data and applications in its on-premise data centers while moving others to a private cloud and still others to public cloud environments. Thanks to this level of flexibility, entities can ensure that the most sensitive assets never reach the cloud, while still taking advantage of the cloud's many benefits for all other IT services and information. 

"Agencies can take advantage of the cloud now, rather than waiting."

Similarly, a hybrid cloud deployment enables agencies to retain certain applications and data on-premises in order to continue leveraging legacy tools, while moving unaffected data and services into the cloud. This allows agencies to begin to take advantage of the cloud now, rather than waiting until these legacy tools no longer present an impediment.

Clearly, then, hybrid cloud strategies are a powerful way forward for countless government groups. However, it is important to acknowledge that hybrid deployments are complex. The only way to successfully and securely design, deploy and maintain such a solution is with a great deal of expertise and experience. This makes trusted third-party consulting imperative for any agency eager to take advantage of hybrid cloud's potential.