The Modernizing Government Technology Act is quickly making its way through Congress. Having passed in the House, the bill is expected to face little opposition in the Senate given that a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a similar version of the bill in April. The MGTA will authorize approximately $250 million in IT modernization funding for federal agencies – meaning that CIOs will finally have the opportunity to bring their systems into the 21st Century.
There are many paths to IT modernization, but one of the wisest investments that federal CIOs can make is to move to the cloud. For reasons of cost, scale, and accessibility, the cloud provides many performance advantages to agencies.
Migrating to the cloud sounds simple enough on the surface, but like many IT tasks, what seems simple can often take on the specter of an IT nightmare. There is ample opportunity for loss of data, data inaccessibility, failure to replicate data, and so on—all of which has the potential to disrupt operational continuity and compromise mission delivery.
But just because there are obstacles in moving to the cloud, or in moving between cloud service providers, there is no excuse to hunker down in your data center and avoid the situation all together. The keys to success in cloud migration are to keep it simple by planning well for both short-term and long-term goals, because this is not a project you’ll want to undertake more than once.
So how do you keep a cloud migration simple?
For federal agencies, FedRAMP provides “pre-qualified” clouds like Amazon’s GovCloud and clear guidance on which cloud service providers meet strict security requirements. From there, look for partners that can enable rapid migration of cloud-ready workloads, can identify migration paths for each application, and offer comprehensive, 24×7 support—not only for when there are problems, but to also assess better utilization and productivity.
Another way to keep it simple is to learn from those pioneering agencies and CIOs, like Tom Soderstrom at NASA and David Bray at the Federal Communications Commission. The Cloud First mandate came into effect in 2011, but there was no real movement to the cloud until about two years ago. In effect, this means that there are six years worth of ‘lessons learned’ to be gleaned from a little collaboration. This is important data to feed into your decision making process.
Plan every detail, and then review the plan many times. The devil—as the old saying goes—is always in the details, and nowhere is this more accurate than for a cloud migration. Most failures are derived from a combination of unrealistic goals and poor cost models, conflicting stakeholder expectations, and a failure to plan for these contingencies. Working with a trusted partner with experience in large-scale cloud deployments is a good way to overcome the pitfalls that are inherent in many cloud migrations.
And finally, once the research and the planning has been accomplished, the last step is to initiate the migration. The most common mistake that’s made here is in thinking that there’s a single switch to be flipped and suddenly your agency will be in the cloud. Even if that were true, it wouldn’t be the best approach. It’s wise given the scale of cloud migration projects to take a phased approach to migration and to evaluate these phases against the plan to ensure that benchmarks and expectations are being met.
Complex projects really do benefit from being kept simple. While it sounds like an oxymoron, the research, learning budgeting, planning, and roll-out steps outlined here really do make cloud migration a much less complex undertaking. It’s at these checkpoints that you have the opportunity to adjust and work with your CSP and partners to realign the project and expectations. The end result of investing time and resources upfront is that you’ll be unlikely to need—or want—to change vendors mid-project and start the process again, which at most will delay the benefits of moving to the cloud.