Monday, January 26, 2009

Should my agency consider using cloud computing?

This is clearly the question on the minds and lips of every government IT decsionmaker in town. Why should a government agency even consider cloud computing?  In reality, the decision process is no different than any other IT management decision, “Cloud IT” options should be compared to “Traditional IT” approaches. As Frank Gens of IDC alluded to when he framed the cloud opportunity for IT suppliers, agencies have four options when deciding if and how to improve their IT infrastructure.

  • “Traditional IT” products and services to enhance traditional agency services;
  • "Cloud IT” products and services to enhance traditional agency services;
  • Traditional IT” products and services to create agency specific cloud services; and
  • "Cloud IT” products and services to create agency specific cloud services.

In a ZDnet blog post that compared traditional with cloud IT, Dion Hinchcliffe summarized the differences as shown in the table below.

 

Traditional IT

Cloud IT

Design Approach

Proprietary, customized

Standardized

Economy of Scale

Organizational

Ecosystem

Control

Full

Partial

Security

Most secure

Secure

Capacity

Limited

Nearly unlimited

Infrastructure

Dedicated

Shared

 

Any decision process must take into account the agency’s mission goals, the specific agency function being addressed and the current IT infrastructure. From a mission point of view, the comparison factors listed above can be addressed using six straight-forward yes/no questions:

  • Can this function within the agency’s mission be accomplished with the use of standard IT components or are proprietary or customized components necessary?
- Yes, "Cloud IT" is an option

- No, "Traditional IT" approach may be required

  • In anticipating future functional requirements, do the investments required and value obtained by letting the agency develop technical improvements outweigh the investment savings and time lost in leveraging technical improvement from an industry ecosystem?
Yes, "Traditional IT" may be required

- No, "Cloud IT" is an option

  • In view of agency mission objectives, is full control of all IT resources required to complete this function?
- Yes, "Traditional IT" may be required

- No, "Cloud IT" is an option

  • Is the level of security afforded by generally accepted commercial practices acceptable in accomplishing this specific agency function?
- Yes, "Cloud IT" is an option

- No, "Traditional IT" may be required

  • In executing this function during surge or peak situations, would capacity limitation severely affect agency mission accomplishment?
- Yes, "Cloud IT" should be considered as an option

- No, "Traditional IT" may be desirable

  • In view of agency mission objectives, is a dedicated IT infrastructure required to complete this function?
- Yes, "Traditional IT" may be required

- No, "Cloud IT" is an option

By weighing each factor and answering these questions,  could this framework help in discussing the use of “Traditional IT” versus “Cloud IT”?

What do you think?

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