Federal agencies are well underway in their cloud migration journeys and continue to reduce the number of on-premise data centers.
Given this progress, agencies are taking the next step of their IT modernization plans and shifting gears into a new phase of cloud optimization.
Brad Scyrkels, Cyxtera Federal Group’s vice president and general manager, said government customers are looking for cloud choice, after following the Office of Management and Budget’s Cloud First and Cloud Smart strategies.
“There’s still that need for moving away from government-owned data centers – not necessarily needing to buy their own equipment as part of that process, but they still want to maintain a bit more of a private-cloud feel,” Scyrkels said. “This presents a great opportunity for them to move away from owning and refreshing this equipment, allowing us to own that piece, but still maintain that sense of control that they’re looking for in their overall environment.”
Holland Barry, Cyxtera’s senior vice president and field chief technology officer, said agencies are moving into a new era of cloud that raises new questions about how best to streamline their workloads.
“We’re going from Cloud Smart now to Cloud Choice,” Barry said. “Where does the application want to live? What are its data requirements? What are its security requirements? What are its usage patterns over time?”
Barry said agencies are well-positioned to take a longer-term view of their cloud needs, after spending the past few years ramping up the pace of IT modernization efforts under the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had an overnight remote workforce as a result of the pandemic, and there were a lot of things that people had to do out of necessity. And then some overcorrections have occurred too, in terms of where workloads were running,” Barry said.
While agencies are well into their cloud migration journeys, and making progress shuttering on-prem data centers, Scyrkels said there are some limits to what can move to the cloud.
“Some of that is going to be workloads that can never go to cloud, and will need to remain in a government data center or colocation facility. Some of it lends itself to cloud. But that transition to cloud isn’t always easy,” Scyrkels said. “The business side is certainly evolving in that space, as customers look for more choice.”
Agencies are also rethinking their needs from the cloud, given the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.
“The problem with AI and ML, specifically, is your cost of entry is very, very high. And so for a lot of customers, they feel a limited choice in terms of the direction that they can go,” Scyrkels said.
Private cloud as-a-service solutions give agencies the best of both worlds when it comes to security and controlling costs.
“When we look at private cloud, one of the advantages is single tenancy. But when you move to a hyperscaler model, that’s a multi-tenant offering. And from a security standpoint, some customers are going to be OK with that, and some are going to be less comfortable with that, particularly for more sensitive workloads,” Scyrkels said.
Scyrkels said Cyxtera charges its private cloud as-a-service customers based entirely on the node or serve they’re using.
“What they do inside of that box is entirely up to them, and if they use it 15% or 85%, the price is going to be the same,” he said.
Barry said private cloud-as-a-service combines the “best attributes” of public and private cloud solutions.
“What we’ve built, and what we’d like agencies and FSIs to pay attention to, is something that blends the best of both worlds, of having that public cloud experience, but also having the security control and performance of a dedicated environment,” he said.
Scyrkels said Cyxtera’s private cloud as-a-service solution allows agencies to bring in their own cybersecurity stack.
“Oftentimes, when you go into somebody else’s environment, you’d have to adopt their security controls as part of your process. And for a federal agency, that takes a lot of time. It can be a bit expensive to run through that process,” he said. “Our offering allows government customers to bring in their cybersecurity stack and connect it into our Enterprise Bare Metal boundary, so that they preserve the cyber settings and security that they’re comfortable with.”
Scyrkels said many agencies are gearing up for a “tech refresh,” and need to vacate the data center space they currently occupy.
“A premier use case for us is really just providing them with a space to migrate to,” he said.
Private cloud as-a-service solutions also give agencies an opportunity to lower the barrier to entry for experimenting with AI and machine learning tools.
“It can be daunting for a lot of FSIs and federal agencies, but being able to consume it on a monthly basis, allows them a lot more steering in terms of what they’re going to do when they’re going to do it, and not having to ultimately own a half-a-million dollar asset,” Scyrkels said.
Barry said Cyxtera is also able to support agencies working on AI/ML through high-speed networking.
“When those inevitable, large datasets, especially related to model training, need to occur close to the compute stack, we’ve got you covered there,” he said.