Open source cloud may help ‘future proof’ government agencies

One of the key challenges inherent to IT investment is the risk that a given technology will become substandard or even obsolete sooner than anticipated. This is also one of the main reasons why cloud integration is so appealing for countless organizations, including federal agencies. Whereas an on-premise solution requires an investment in expensive hardware, a cloud-based approach shifts responsibility for this equipment to the service provider. 

This makes cloud integration key for "future proofing" federal agencies. But it is not the only component. In a conversation with NextGov, Gunnar Hellekson, chief strategist for Red Hat US Public Sector, recently argued that the government departments should combine cloud computing with open source solutions to truly prepare themselves to meet future demands.

Open source and the government
As Hellekson noted, government agencies initially embraced open source solutions in order to take advantage of the technology's cost savings, as it is far less expensive than most licensed software options. However, it soon became clear to federal IT personnel that open source also offered a variety of robust advantages. These included the ability to innovate and execute security fixes more quickly. 

This last point is particularly critical. As Hellekson pointed out, in the past many IT professionals in both the public and private sectors operated under the belief that open source solutions were inherently unsafe and impossible to secure. This is no longer the case.

"Everyone now accepts that keeping code secret doesn't make it more secure, and that openness, responsiveness and transparency are the best defenses against attackers," he said, according to the news source.

Considering the importance of improving cybersecurity at the federal level, it's easy to see why this approach quickly gained adherents.

Open source and the cloud
To take open source approaches to the next level, Hellekson emphasized the importance of combining these resources with cloud integration efforts.  

"It's not an accident that open source has grown alongside cloud computing," he told NextGov. "The relationship is symbiotic, since cloud services for collaboration and on-demand development platforms have made it easier than ever to start and maintain an open source project."

Among other advantages, Hellekson highlighted the fact that by combining open source with cloud integration, agencies can see their servers installed and running in days or weeks, rather than months. Additionally, the expert noted that both cloud computing and open source software are ideal for encouraging collaboration and communication among colleagues. 

By embracing these solutions, he explained, government IT workers gain the ability to develop new, more effective tools that can improve agency performance in a variety of ways. Furthermore, departments can enjoy these upgrades while spending less money than would be required when relying on legacy computing technology or licensed software options.

An effective approach
As Hellekson made clear, federal adoption of both open source solutions and cloud computing technology is advancing quickly. However, this does not mean that agencies can or should invest in such solutions rashly. On the contrary, significant preparation is essential. 

This is particularly true in regard to security. While Hellekson emphasized that neither open source nor cloud computing present heightened security risks for agencies, the fact remains that these, like any other technology, must be handled properly to ensure compliance and integrity. A poorly planned approach will put agencies at risk of exposure.

That is why federal departments should consider seeking out third-party guidance whenever they consider engaging either open source or cloud solutions. Reputable consulting firms can help agencies make the most of these technologies while minimizing risk and maximizing flexibility.