Making the Hybrid Cloud Work for Public Sector
If you’ve been working in the government sector for any amount of time, you had to see the advent of the “hybrid cloud” coming. Like all new technologies, when first introduced, “the cloud” was the answer to all your IT woes. It is cheaper, more reliable, infinitely scalable, instantly adaptable, and so on. But, as time has gone by and many of you have dipped your toes in the water, the reality is beginning to surface, and challenges are beginning to appear. Sure, moving email to the cloud was a great first step, and it certainly gave most agencies the ability to show progress in leveraging the cloud. Yes, archiving data to the cloud is also a good use case and is showing progress. But, what’s next? There are plenty of new SaaS offerings popping up, and purpose-built to solve various public sector challenges, and yes, they are generally decent applications. Yet, would it be fair to suggest new challenges are arising as your agency begins to adopt new cloud solutions? In particular, has the advent of specialized applications for government made your overall IT portfolio simpler or more complex? Government has always struggled with a vast array of siloed systems and isn’t the cloud creating yet more challenges in this regard? Well, maybe. Let’s take a look.
What I love about the cloud is it has something of value to offer practically any government organization, regardless of size, maturity, point of view, approach. Even for the most conservative IT shops, there are use cases that just plain make sense. And with the growing availability of FEDRAMP certified offerings, it’s becoming easier to procure. But, thinking realistically, for reasons of law, budget, time, architecture, we know the cloud will not be the solution for every public sector problem. Some applications, some data will never leave your agency’s premises. And here in lies the new complexity. You have applications and data on-prem. You have applications and data in the cloud. And you have business requirements that require these apps to work together, to share data.
So, now that you have a hybrid environment, what can you do about? Let’s face it, we can talk about technology, architecture and approaches all day long, but, it always comes down to this, what should be done with the data. You need answers to questions such as; Is it safe? Is it accessible? It is reliable? How do I know if the integrity has been compromised? What about the quality? How error-prone is the data? How complete is the data? How do we manage it across this new hybrid landscape? How can I get data from a public cloud application to my on-prem data warehouse? How can I leverage the flexibility of public IaaS to build a new application that will need access to data that is also required for an on-prem legacy application?
I know many government IT professional are wrestling with these questions and seeking solutions. So, here’s an interesting thought. Most of these questions are not exactly new, they are just taking on the added context of the cloud. Prior to the cloud, many agencies discovered answers in the form of a data integration platform. The platform is used to ensure every application, every user has access to the data they need to perform their mission or job. I think of it this way. The platform is a “standardized” abstraction layer that ensures all your data gets to where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, in the form it needs to be in. There are hundreds of government IT shops using such an approach.
Here’s the good news. This approach to integrating data can be extended to include the cloud. Imagine placing “agents” in all the places where your data needs to live, the agents capable of communicating with each other to integrate, alter or move data. Now add to this the idea of a cloud-based remote control that allows you to control all the functions of the agents. Using such a platform now enables your agency to tie on-prem systems to cloud systems, minimizing the effect of having multiple silos of information. Now government workers and warfighters will have the ability to more quickly get complete, accurate data, regardless of where it originates and citizens will benefit from more effectively delivered services.
How would such an approach change your ideas on how to leverage the cloud for your agency? If you live near the Washington, DC area, you may wish to drop in on the Government Cloud Computing and Data Center Conference & Expo. One of my colleagues, Ronen Schwartz will be discussing this topic. For those not in the vicinity, you can learn more here.