Wednesday, August 21, 2013

OMB's Evidence Memo: A Call for Cloud Services Brokerage

by Ray Holloman and Kevin Jackson
 
In a late July memo the Office of Management and Budget requested cloud services brokerage.
 
Well, not in so many words.
 
Rather, OMB requested increased use of evidence in 2015 budget proposals and in evaluation of existing programs to, in the words of agency leadership, “continually improve program performance by applying existing evidence about what works generating new knowledge and using experimentation and innovation to test new approaches to program delivery.”
 
The memo is part of the administration's ongoing evidenced-based initiative to better use analytics to evaluate outcomes of dollars spent.
 
All of which makes sense. With the ebb tide of sequestration causing federal IT budgets to continue to recede, Uncle Sam’s wallet is more cobwebs than cash. This means every dollar spent must be carefully indexed for performance.
 
In federal IT, it’s a call for CSB, not simply for the cost savings of cloud computing, but for the independent tracking of metrics and flexibility a multi-vendor broker solution provides.
 
Kevin L. Jackson
“Cloud services brokerage is an evidence-based performance model,” NJVC Vice President and General Manager, Cloud Services, Kevin L. Jackson said. “Pricing is transparent. Performance is transparent. The cloud broker’s only incentive is to provide the best performance and value to the customer.”
 
CSB solutions like NJVC’s Cloudcuity platform, can help bring cost transparency and detailed evidence of performance to the IT enterprise. With automated dashboards and monitoring, CSB solutions can replace some of the human capital required to monitor single-vendor solutions, while expertise in deploying and managing mulit-vendor solutions can help reduce the burden of integrating what frustrated customers often refer to as phonebooks of APIs.
 
In an area with highly dynamic pricing and an emering universe of options, CSB brings sunshine to the economics of the cloud.
 
“For the same reasons brokerage has revolutionized travel, financial services and other industries, the same impact will be realized in cloud computing,” Jackson said. “It’s more choice, more transparency and more evidence of success or failure.”
 
Federal belt-tightening makes CSB a tool with which agencies can do more with less in the lean times, and more with more in times of expanded budgets.
 
CSB also supports something that federal IT isn’t typically afforded—flexibility. Underperformance of a vendor or solution doesn’t require the end of a contract’s option year or other termination actions. Agencies and programs can simply switch. New ideas or services can be tested an inexpensive rate, systems virtualized with dummy data to mitigate security risks and, if the outcomes are beneficial, solutions deployed more nimbly. 
 
Cloud computing has already generated savings for federal IT. A 2012 industry survey found a savings of $5.5 billion annually across the federal IT budget due to cloud adoption.
 
CSB marks the next level of cost savings, preventing much of the financial leakage associated with cloud deployment. As the federal government explores CSB as a delivery model, the early evidence of its success is already here.
 
At the state level, four agencies in Texas are already using CSB services, provided through the same CSB portal that powers the NJVC Cloudcuity portfolio. The agencies estimate a 30-45 percent infrastructure cost savings compared to internal data center costs and reported improved ability to onboard cloud options by a factor of five. VoteTexas.gov, a site launched by the Texas Secretary of State to serve as a one-stop resource fo the needs of Texas voters, was stood up in just two weeks.
 
Internationally, Cloudcuity provided CSB to a disaster relief response demonstration, providing a key technology to stand up an international disaster response infrastructure (comprising four clouds, seven applications and two geospatial data stores) in less than a year with no capital expenditure. The lessons learned from this reenactment may become the baseline for future disaster response, drastically reducing cost and decreasing time to deploy critical resources. 
 
As more and more cloud solutions come online, CSB provides a streamlined acquisition model for self provisioning, or, working in concert with cloud consultants like Jackson to determine the best route. A CSB provides clear proof of normalized cloud performance, determined through validated algorithms—not simply the one-page marketing slick numbers a single vendor promotes. A full-service CSB can help reduce some of the leakage of savings associated with cloud computing by helping end users deal with integrating numerous APIs, dynamic pricing, identifying pricing arbitrage and understanding likely future cost fluctuations.
 
Moreover, competition can remain constant with the help of a CSB, as performance and cost are constantly monitored and compared against differing solutions. A CSB can can then compete pricing among multiple providers, allowing  Federal or commercial clients to remain agile in a dynamic marketplace.
 
“Vendors focus on creating the best product, which is great. Cloud services brokers, however, focus on creating the best strategy for an individual customer,” Jackson said. “The two objectives may not be the same. No one would argue that Maserati makes an inferior car to an 18-wheeler, but if you need a transport fleet, merely being the best automobile doesn’t make it the best choice.”
 
And unlike a single-vendor solution, CSB provides complete transparency in results, both in spend and performance, and next-step course corrections without the need for expensive internal staff.
 
For federal IT, which needs to turn every nickel into a dollar, CSB can be a powerful tool to maximize budget spend. 
 
The evidence will be right in front of you.
 
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