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Cloud Smarter, Not Harder

Grimt Habtemariam, Federal Cloud Strategist, Cisco

October 30, 2018  |  Cloud  •  IT Modernization


There’s no question that cloud is an enabler of digital transformation. Spending 80 percent of IT budgets to support legacy systems, as reported by the Office of Personnel Management, is not providing the resources agencies need to modernize. Legacy systems not only hinder innovation but also security.

In fact, 85 percent of federal IT leaders say their technology is threatening the future of their agencies because they are running on outdated software that is not supportable, according to this survey. The good news is that government is making progress and quickly advancing its understanding of the benefits of cloud.

In late September, the Office of Management and Budget took another step toward IT modernization by releasing a draft of its cloud computing strategy, “Cloud Smart,” an update to 2010’s Cloud First. With technology advancements making the current state of IT in the federal government nearly unrecognizable next to its former self, this update was much needed.

The newly proposed strategy uses knowledge gained from the initial eight years and combines security, procurement and workforce considerations. It’s a cohesive plan that agencies can use to innovate practices for streamlined and efficient operations while leveraging cloud environments.

The approach encourages agencies to think holistically about cloud approaches and how they fit their needs, recommending they evaluate the capabilities of specific services, rather than simply seeing cloud as a destination. This is a significant update that reflects more sophisticated thinking than the initial Cloud First strategy—it also will lead agencies to consider all cloud deployment options including private, hybrid and commercial cloud.

As government starts to make technology decisions based on mission needs and outcomes, it also needs to balance cost and organizational maturity to streamline transformation. This allows agencies to select best-fit solutions and gain access to innovations that are available within different cloud service provider’s environments.

It is clear that government recognizes that a multi-cloud approach that leverages private, hybrid and commercial cloud deployments has become essential—but implementation of a multi-cloud approach is not easy. While the benefits of a multi-cloud approach include cost optimization, speed of innovation, agility and improved reliability, embracing a multi-cloud world also comes with its own set of complexities. Government will be able to benefit from the richness and diversity of innovation of each cloud it consumes, but it will also want certain capabilities to be consistent across all cloud environments, such as:

Networking, to be able to

  • securely connect to single or multiple clouds and SaaS applications
  • optimize for high performance IaaS and PaaS environments
  • build multi-cloud networks with a consistent policy model

Security, to be able to

  • identifying threats in user and device behaviors and protect both end-users and their devices
  • secure SaaS applications, detect data leakages and protect sensitive data
  • protect custom workloads in the cloud

Analytics, to be able to

  • gain real-time insights into IT operations, end user experience and mission outcome metrics
  • automate discovery of end user journey—from application services to infrastructure dependencies
  • scale applications based on end user performance and mission outcome metrics

Management, to be able to

  • manage cost and cloud spent
  • manage the full application lifecycle
  • manage applications that span multiple data centers, private clouds, and commercial cloud environments

Security is foundational to a multi-cloud approach and can be one of the biggest barriers to a successful multi-cloud adoption journey. The shared security model between cloud services providers and government can make it difficult to set clear responsibility and accountability boundaries. Command and control of data as well as the government’s ability to explore the effects of cyber offensive operations can also be a challenge.

To successfully navigate their journey to cloud, agencies must adopt a holistic architecture approach that not only looks at cloud services and applications, but also addresses how agencies will securely connect to the cloud, protect their data and end users, while maintaining visibility across multiple cloud environments. They will need solutions that will allow them to gain visibility into user and system activities across cloud applications, branch locations, devices and cloud service providers. These solutions, must enable agencies to detect threats across multiple clouds and respond to them faster.

In the absence of a holistic architecture approach and a comprehensive adoption strategy that addresses operational maturity and workforce skill set, agencies can be faced with a gap between the capabilities they want to enable and what the organization can support.

Cisco is in a unique position to team with government to accelerate its cloud adoption journey. Our approach is aimed at solving our customers’ needs to realize the value of leveraging very diverse cloud environments. In order to achieve that, we provide consistent networking, security, analytics and management solutions that can work across any cloud our customers chose to consume. In conjunction with our partner ecosystem, we are also able to bridge the knowledge and skill gaps our customers may face.

To learn how Iron Bow and Cisco work together to provide cloud solutions, visit the Iron Bow website.


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