The cultural struggle within the federal government over how, when, and how much to move to the cloud was on full display during a panel discussion at the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Committee “Hillversation” earlier this month, held on Capitol Hill.
David Bray, CIO for the Federal Communications Commission, made clear that he’s fully in the move-now camp. The agency is now 100 percent cloud through a commercial service provider, and has been that way for over a year, he said.
“You should play to your strengths and expertise. Our strengths are in serving the public, not writing code. It should be cloud by default,” he said.
“First thing, instead of talking about data center consolidation, it should be about data center elimination,” Bray said. “I believe we [the federal government] should just have three – one for the intelligence community, one for Defense, and one for civilian agencies.”
But agencies transitioning to the cloud more slowly have cited many concerns – security, hidden costs, and their own unique missions, among others – that they believe need careful consideration.
Speaking to those issues, though only on behalf of his own agency, Marlon Andrews, deputy CIO for the National Archives and Records Administration, was far more cautious.
“I strongly believe in cloud-first, but not cloud-only,” he said. “[NARA] has a unique mission, ingesting data from all agencies … The amount of data is just multiplying exponentially.”
Andrews said there is the ongoing challenge of how to allocate existing funds, and reprioritize when budgets are trimmed by Congress. “It always comes down to how much money do I have this year, how much next year, do I want to go out and get funds I’m going to have to pay back later.”
Bray suggested the funding argument needs reframing.
“Something’s got to give … You have to get in front of agency leadership and say, If I don’t get in front of this I’m going to pay an ever [larger] amount of my budget on legacy systems,” he said. “You’ve got to figure out those early experiments that you can use to prove to leadership” that the pain of transition is worth the benefits gained.