Hybrid cloud is key for integrated government services

As cloud adoption continues to pick up steam across the federal government, the question that many agency leaders must ask themselves is what type of cloud solution to pursue.

A key factor in this decision, as GCN contributor Shawn McCarthy recently highlighted, is integration. Government departments are increasingly reliant on integrated services, and they need cloud solutions that can accommodate these needs. This makes hybrid cloud integration the most appealing option for many governmental bodies. While hybrid cloud solutions represent only a relatively small portion of overall federal cloud spending, this figure is poised to grow substantially in the coming weeks.

Hybrid classification
As the writer noted, the Office of Management and Budget projected that federal agencies will spend approximately $2.8 billion on cloud computing services in fiscal year 2015, and only $144.6 million of this figure is predicted to go toward hybrid solutions.

However, McCarthy explained that despite this small percentage of spending, hybrid cloud deployments are already widely used among federal agencies – they simply are frequently not labeled as such. Solutions that most would categorize as hybrid are, for a variety of budgetary and procedural reasons, not classified as hybrid by the OMB, which skews the budgetary projection. Most solutions are instead marked as private or public, even as these definitions become blurrier.

Integrated benefits
According to McCarthy, hybrid cloud solutions are not just superior for many governmental IT purposes, but are actually required. This is particularly true when it comes to the system development life cycle.

"Parts of a system get swapped in and out as they age and as technologies change. What is hosted internally today may be hosted in a public cloud in the future, and visa versa," McCarthy explained.

He further noted that government IT systems are now increasingly interconnected. Data and databases must move between different agencies' systems quickly and easily. The flexibility offered by hybrid cloud solutions is therefore ideal for such functionality.

"The hybrid cloud can transform the dynamics of enterprise IT and give individual lines of business greater access to new computing resources, including infrastructure, platforms and software," McCarthy wrote. "At a time when government IT architects find themselves challenged to deploy, manage and update their infrastructure, hybrid cloud can help organizations balance on-demand flexibility and usage-based pricing with subdepartment-level control."

Beyond these considerations, the hybrid cloud is often the best strategy for maximizing performance while minimizing risk, both in the public and private sectors. With such a deployment, organizations can take advantage of the cost-efficiency of the public cloud for their low-risk operations and data while keeping more sensitive assets on better secured private clouds.

Cloud complications
However, it is important to note that while hybrid cloud solutions can potentially deliver optimal results for government agencies, there is a serious need for caution when pursuing these strategies. It can be very difficult for decision-makers to know which operations to keep on a private server and which to move to a public offering.

That is why it is critical for agencies to work with third-party consultants that can offer insight and guidance through the implementation process and beyond. Only by taking advantage of such resources can federal agencies hope to keep costs low while still taking advantage of the performance and security boosts that cloud computing technology has to offer. Such cloud integration service providers can offer the support needed to ensure that the cloud is and remains an invaluable resource for federal agencies both now and into the foreseeable future. As cloud budgets continue to grow, the need to demonstrate this level of effectiveness will only increase.