It has been almost five years since the “Cloud First” mandate was issued with the goal of pushing government agencies to consider cloud options wherever possible. A recent IDC report estimates that the global cloud market, including private, public and hybrid clouds, will hit $118 billion in 2015 and crest at $200 billion by 2018. While federal leaders are making inroads in cloud adoption, many agencies are still searching for the right balance as chief information officers struggle with a variety of challenges such as economic, cultural and technical issues.
Cloud stumbling blocks
Despite the efficiencies and cost savings that cloud computing promises, complexity and risk concerns associated with data migration are major hurdles. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the federal government has encountered several barriers as agencies shift more IT functions/systems to cloud platforms, including the following:
Data security – The associated cost and pace of regulatory reform is proving unsustainable for many government agencies, especially in meeting new security standards, delivering necessary data to support compliance reporting and adhering to requirements that mandate the protection of sensitive data.
Adoption of new technologies – The government is slow to react to new technologies and it often takes time for agencies to embrace. The complexity of these processes often delays deployment of new and innovative solutions.
Ancillary technologies – Cloud technologies provide flexibility, but some government agencies may have limited information sharing capabilities and lack the necessary IT infrastructure (connectivity, bandwidth, etc.) that leverage the maximum potential of the cloud.
Technical know-how – Any implementation of cloud will require cloud experts and skilled personnel for effective migration and management.
Migration to the cloud can involve expensive up-front costs. Also, while the per-gigabyte cost of storage is low, added compute and Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) expenses can quickly counter balance the overall cloud benefits.
Across agencies, the size, number and complexity of databases and applications have increased significantly, resulting in migration projects turning into multi-year efforts. Legacy infrastructure, integration with existing systems, complexity of deployments and data governance has further stalled many agency efforts to migrate to the cloud.
Addressing the cloud conundrum
Inevitably, data has become the biggest constraint for many government organizations. Getting the massive stores of data from the data center to the cloud is a major obstacle for cloud initiatives.
However, the emergence of true data-as-a-service (DaaS) across data centers, cloud or hybrid environments, makes cloud migration less challenging and more affordable for any type of cloud. This new agile approach to data management gives agencies the ability to simplify and automate the data migration process from legacy systems to the cloud, resulting in more successful transitions. This is accomplished via unlocking data from its existing infrastructure and delivering it quickly and securely to the right location via self-service.
By removing the data constraints that are growing exponentially, organizations that use virtual data engines are completing application delivery projects 50 percent faster with 90 percent less hardware costs. They also eliminate virtually all data errors by testing real-time data and compressing test cycles dramatically as compared to those that do not utilize data virtualization. The ability to access virtual data on demand has transformed application development by eliminating the data bottlenecks caused by limited environments and stale data. DaaS offers a data on demand capability with no production downtime, zero data loss and the completion of cloud migration initiatives in half the time and budget.
Data virtualization offers additional benefits that can help federal agencies improve their rate of success in implementing cloud initiatives, including:
Increased security and agility – Combining virtual data delivery capabilities with data masking technology protects sensitive information and enables organizations to operate efficiently. It also increases data agility, management and movement to the cloud, while satisfying compliance regulations. Data masking technology increases security by providing development teams with masked data that is structurally identical to the original datasets. This approach eliminates the exposure of sensitive information to agency employees who do not have a need to view it.
Eliminates risk of data loss and compliance – The lack of visibility and control in a public cloud’s infrastructure layer is a major area of concern when assessing the risk of moving sensitive data or workloads. Agencies need a way to govern data changes, achieve compliance and eliminate the risk of sensitive data residing in an insecure cloud infrastructure. Data masking ensures sensitive data is never sent to the public cloud without first being masked and provides better risk mitigation than identity management, encryption or some network security solutions.
Designed for scalability
Agencies need the ability to scale vertically or horizontally to virtualize thousands of applications across hundreds of legacy data centers, private clouds or public cloud environments. By integrating public clouds with scalable solutions that provide the same level of architecture flexibility and orchestration through open APIs, agencies have options to empower any combination of hybrid or born-in-the-cloud scenarios. Hybrid cloud environments offer a variety of efficiency benefits such as WAN optimization to minimize data transfers, data encryption and compression benefits of replication. Replication provides added resiliency while centralized management enables global visibility and monitoring in large, distributed environments.
Moving in the right direction
Data-as-a-service solutions are perfectly suited to help federal agencies that are reluctant to embrace the cloud. With data virtualization technology, agencies can safely and securely expand or transition their environments to cloud platforms efficiently and cost-effectively – and can get cloud initiatives moving in the right direction and closer to reality.