Monday, August 24, 2015

“Cloud First” Lessons Learned from ViON



In 2011, then United States CIO Vivek Kundra released the US Federal Cloud Computing Strategy [1]. In the executive summary he pointed to cloud computing as a key component of the US Federal Government’s information technology modernization efforts:

“Cloud computing has the potential to play a major part in addressing these inefficiencies and improving government service delivery. The cloud computing model can significantly help agencies grappling with the need to provide highly reliable, innovative services quickly despite resource constraints.”
This “Cloud First” initiative was a complement to the 2010 Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), which was created to reverse the historic growth of Federal data centers.

Since then, ViON Corporation has teamed with its US Federal Agency customers to make the promises outlined by Mr. Kundra a reality. In accomplishing this work, they provide industry leading data center professional services which also include networking, Cloud Design and IT infrastructure architecture expertise.  In the following interview, Richard Campbell and Keith Greene, two of their leading Cloud Solution Architects, share their experience and lessons learned with the “Cloud Musing’s” audience.

Kevin:  Rich and Keith, thank you very much for taking the time to participate in this interview.  In  order to get us all on the same page, could you please tell us how your US Federal customers view data center consolidation and cloud computing? Are these initiatives separate activities or are they part of an overall strategy?


Rich:  Our customers really have differing views on the intended goals of these two initiatives.  Most agencies want to leverage congressionally appropriate funds to help them transition to a more economic IT consumption model that can be funded through their operational budgets.  Data center consolidation efforts, however, are typically a reaction to budget cuts and are based on the need to reduce agency capital expenditures.  Some actually do link the efforts and are using consolidation benefits in order to modernizing while simultaneously reaping the rewards that cloud solutions generally provide.

Keith:  I agree with that observation.  Apart from physical relocation of equipment, customers achieved data center consolidation thru virtualization.  Over time, they discovered that the projected savings weren’t being realized due to unanticipated increase costs associated with licensing, support, security, and compliance issues.  This phenomenon is generally referred to as "VM Sprawl".  While virtualization can be an important component of many deployments, cloud resource enablement, orchestration, and management capabilities typically reduce the overall costs of an organization’s IT environment. Additionally, controls in the cloud stack continually monitor the provisioning and billing process which inevitably leads to more efficient use of the environment.

Kevin:  With that said, what challenges do your customers run into when they decide to adopt cloud computing?

Rich:  The biggest challenges we see are application modernization and the enterprise getting a grasp on the associated dependencies between those apps.

Keith:  IT Managers are faced with a major dilemma when they are asked to cut overall IT costs by going to the cloud.  While the cloud does provide a relatively easy way to consume infrastructure services in a “pay-as-you-go” model, many current applications are not “cloud ready”.  Most agency applications have been written and designed to operate in a client/server architecture.  Many times these deployments used hard coded IP addresses which introduced static application dependencies within a static infrastructure environment.  With cloud computing, the infrastructure is dynamic by design.  Applications must be therefore be written so that they can deal with the fluidity of the virtual cloud environments.  Rewriting legacy application so that they can work on the cloud can cost more than the infrastructure savings.

http://www.vion.com/

Kevin:  So how can ViON help agencies address this issue?

Keith:  Through the experience we’ve gained, Vion can provide advice and assistance on implementing best practices for cloud transition and data migration.  We can also help the agency understand application dependencies which is one of the most critical inputs when selecting appropriate data migration tools.

Kevin:  Do you see any differences civilian and DoD agencies when you help them in this transition?

Rich:  For the most part they are the same but FedRAMP,the Federal Risk Authorization and Management Program, has really helped by enabling a government-wide cloud computing security accreditation process.  Although the DoD requires some additional security and protection methods, the FedRAMP baseline can significantly reduce both time and cost.

Kevin:  What would be your advice to an agency that’s developing their cloud transition strategy?

Rich:  Government agencies really need to better align their IT resources with their individual mission requirements and goals.  Effective cloud computing solutions aren’t designed and built around a specific technology but rather IT services that support an organization’s global efforts. They also need to have a holistic approach in their application modernization efforts.  The ability to leverage an open agile solutions will deliver benefits at every level.  

Keith:  Agencies must also focus on the change management challenges they are sure to face.  Existing rules and policies need to be modified so that they don’t act as an impediment to the mission agility that cloud can provide.  The ability for the cloud administrator to move resources around dynamically is sometimes viewed by change advisory boards as operating out of control, which in turn is counter-productive and limiting.  

Kevin:  Rich, Keith, thank you both for enlightening us with your experience and insights.

Rich and Keith:  Our pleasure.




[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/egov_docs/federal-cloud-computing-strategy.pdf



( This content is being syndicated through multiple channels. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of GovCloud Network, GovCloud Network Partners or any other corporation or organization.)
 



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