Insight by T-Rex Solutions

How to modernize to the cloud: A Census case history

The White House, Congress and federal leaders all agree that modernizing of agency information technology is an imperative. Future mission delivery and the ability to offer high quality services depend on it. While the debate over details, such as the technology modernization fund, continue, some agencies are moving ahead with one of the key elements of modernization. Namely, moving critical, production applications to commercial clouds.

A case in point is the Census Bureau, now seeing the benefits of a modernization effort in the functioning of the 2020 decennial count. Whereas the last count was largely paper based, this year Census has mounted the first ever internet response and the first ever use of mobile devices by its temporary cadre of enumerators. Testimony to the resilience of this three-year effort is that the count proceeds apace while much of the Bureau’s workforce is teleworking.

T-Rex Solutions executives Jason Keplinger, chief technology and innovation officer, and Utpal Amin, chief engineer outlined the extraordinary Census transformation in a recent interview. They described how 52 applications that comprise the system of systems for the 2020 count were either moved to the cloud or hyper-converged in the Bureau’s hybrid environment. And how systems were “pressure tested” for up to 1.2 million concurrent users.

They also outlined how any IT shop can achieve enterprise modernization by following some basic principles.

  • Establish a roadmap. Know where you want to go, and in what order you need to move assets or rework them to cloud-enable them.
  • Stay flexible. Have off-ramps for projects that start to slow, so you can move to ones with a better technology and financial return on the effort. Keep your financial guardrails up.
  • Get the right people on board to support the modernization project. That tends to starts right at the top for agencies that are successful.
  • Have a plan for security integration from the start. Modernization, cloud adoption and improved cybersecurity are all part of the plan.
  • Establish good governance and change control procedures and use them
The Path to the Cloud

To be flexible is very important because depending on the systems and their requirements, some of them can adopt all of the new features and functions of the cloud like going serverless. Whereas some of the systems may not adopt 100 percent of the cloud features but might want to have virtual servers or to have traditional databases.

Census Bureau Case Study

The [Census Bureau] technical integrator program was an innovative approach that the government took in order to make sure there was an integrated solution and infrastructure that crossed the 52 systems that make up the 2020 census. The contract covered from end to end, system availability, system production, system infrastructure, and integration.

The Data-Centric Approach to Modernization

T-Rex took a very holistic approach to performance and scalability testing. Starting at the architecture and understanding how a system scales, and that’s very important to determining where you put that application, what landing zone, what cloud you want to put that application into. We also modeled out the workloads associated with each of those systems so we could then test them later on [at] those workloads.

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