Jim Sweeney

Contractors: Don't shirk your cloud responsibilities

A number of the game-changing trends highlighted in a recent Deltek report on the government market revolved around cloud computing; and how contractors need to think strategically to address agency challenges.

The market research firm’s Federal Information Technology Hardware Market, 2012-2017 report included the following as major challenges facing agencies:

  • Managing data, not infrastructure
  • Increasing efficiency
  • Enhancing enterprise services
  • Accelerating innovation
  • Consolidating acquisition avenues

I have spent hundreds of hours, as chief technology officer of GTSI, interviewing my peers in federal, state and local government who are already successfully using some form of cloud, and the challenges they faced. The result of this effort is Get Your Head in the Cloud: Unraveling the Mystery for Public Sector, a book that provides a clearer picture of the cloud landscape and addresses a number of the trends outlined in the Deltek report.

As IT professionals, we must work to alleviate the major concerns that serve as barriers to cloud adoption for our success as well as the success of our customers’ missions. We must focus on the following:

Meeting federal security requirements. These requirements are perhaps the No. 1 most-often cited issue when determining if moving to the cloud is the right approach. We must ensure that our cloud solutions incorporate redundancy, adhere to FISMA requirements and secure all regulatory compliance certifications in order to ease our customers’ minds.

On-demand procurement. Given the current budget environment and threats of sequestration, agencies are increasingly risk adverse. The idea of entering into a contract that bills by usage monthly – as opposed to fixed pricing – can be an intimidating prospect for agencies. How can they appropriately budget when they do not know the fees until the invoice arrives? What happens if there is an instance that requires out-of-scope usage? Contractors need to work with agencies to develop standard billing practices and engage in not-to-exceed contract agreements.

Cultural barriers. Clearly what is most challenging for contractors is overcoming the cultural issues associated with government cloud migration. This is imperative. We must identify internal champions and work hand-in-hand to develop and implement performance measures and mitigate the idea of lost control and that cloud migration will take away their physical control over infrastructure and data.

As noted, there are a number of government agencies that have worked with contractors to implement successful cloud programs. Here are two:

Labor Department

The Labor Department was challenged with modernizing an aging financial system that did not meet current accounting and financial standards, requiring manual workarounds that made the system inefficient. The solution was to adopt a software as a service (SaaS) model developed by a commercial vendor. Now Labor has real-time integration across the department and an automated system that streamlines daily functions and incorporates greater fraud, waste and abuse controls…and at a fraction of the cost.

Energy Department

DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory was one of the first government organizations to implement a hybrid cloud solution by virtualizing its servers to more efficiently deliver services to its users. The lab decommissioned 105 physical servers and shut down three data centers, resulting in tremendous cost savings in power, cooling and real estate.

The road ahead for moving government resources and applications to the cloud is exciting and important, both for government agencies and the contractors that support them. The enhanced capabilities and cost savings that cloud promises for improved government operations and services are a clear driver. Now it is our turn as contractors to help change the forecast, making cloud more accessible, reliable, easy to procure and overall more appealing to the government customer.


About the Author

Jim Sweeney is chief technology officer and lead architect for cloud in the public sector for GTSI. Proceeds from the sale of Get Your Head in the Cloud: Unraveling the Mystery for Public Sector will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. He can be reached at: jim.sweeney@gtsi.com.

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