Ensuring Readiness to Move Into the Cloud Industry Perspective
Executive Summary The journey to cloud technologies is constantly changing. For government, it is getting more complex, with more critical risks. After moving the low-hanging fruit – small workloads or institutional applications – into the cloud, agencies are focusing on migrating larger, more mission-critical applications. Leaders want to create better user experience, improve performance, improve reliability and enhance security for their most important tasks– and cloud provides those possibilities. That means that agencies have the potential to get even greater benefits from cloud, but it also means that there is greater risk if a migration fails. Govplace, a government technology solutions and integration services provider, helps agencies avoid those risks as they place more of their mission-centric workloads in cloud environments. As Govplace Chief Technology Officer Majed Saadi explained in a recent interview with GovLoop, that assistance is often necessary for government. Industry can bring critical commercial guidance to support these migrations and enhance agencies’ ability to succeed in these efforts the first time. While many IT leaders are effectively managing current systems, the nuances of cloud configuration and operation are challenging for any leader to understand and apply. In this industry perspective, we examine how agencies should inspect their application portfolios, surrounding infrastructure and organizational dynamics to ensure they’re ready to make an effective move to cloud. We also explain steps agencies can take when their readiness assessments show their workloads or workforce aren’t quite prepared to start their cloud journey.
Three Areas of Cloud Readiness By now, most government agencies are sold on the idea of the cloud. Its benefits of scalability, elasticity and cost savings are clear. “Now we’re starting to see the next wave, where agencies are trying to come up with their own strategies for adopting the cloud. Each one of them has its different interpretation of how they’re going to get there,” Saadi said. As agencies embark on their journey to the cloud, many leaders are finding that their infrastructure, organizations or both are not adequately prepared to transition to this new technology. While some agencies are more prepared than others, overall preparedness is low. Moreover, many agencies don’t have an adequate understanding of what cloud readiness truly means. The “cloudability” of an organization is determined by three areas, said Saadi: its application portfolio, supporting infrastructure and internal organizational readiness.
1. Application Portfolio Readiness First, organizations must determine if the applications they use and support are ready to be transported into a cloud environment. “The biggest problem that we see – and this is not just limited to cloud computing migration but with any migration scenario – is accurately defining what an application is for that particular agency,” said Saadi. It’s common for organizations to consider a bundle of small applications as one entity, when in fact they operate under different security and functional domains.
Moreover, many agencies don’t have a clear picture of what applications are residing in their infrastructure, due to sheer network complexity and a grueling demand to keep pace with market and technology changes. The iterative nature of supporting massive and evolving mission requirements drives a substantial volume of organizational, configuration, infrastructure and operational changes in order to be responsive and attentive to mission needs. Other organizations have more visibility into their environment’s components, but find it difficult to look at their entire portfolio of applications holistically, given disparate systems. Understanding connections and interdependencies between applications, however, is crucial to understanding how each will impact that IT infrastructure as it heads to a cloud environment. Otherwise, a faulty migration of one application could have negative effects on even those parts of your IT system that remain on-premise.
2. Supporting Infrastructure Readiness Additionally, organizations must consider their applicationsupporting technology, which comprises all technology outside of the application stack, including enterprise management software, security software and other infrastructure components – essentially all of the technologies that have to be integrated in order for an application to be successfully hosted in any environment. While many organizations recognize the need to assess applications moving to the cloud, it’s less common for them to think about the infrastructure that remains behind, onpremise. That technology, however, continues to be tied to applications, even if it moves offsite. Therefore, Saadi said leaders must take the time to understand those connections and decide if they can securely maintain them as an application migrates to cloud. “For example, how do I handle patch management in the cloud? Do I use the existing systems that I currently have? Can that be done over the wire by connecting to the cloud, or should I install a separate system for managing vulnerabilities that are focused on only cloud environment?” These and many more questions must be considered before any application is moved to the cloud.
3. Organizational Readiness Finally, many agencies aren’t prepared for a cloud migration from an organizational perspective. There are a number of questions agencies have to ask themselves before transition, including:
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Who’s going to manage the ongoing operation and regulatory compliance of cloud investments? Where’s the budget coming from to fund deployments and maintenance? Are we really ready to let go of managing physical servers? Are we ready to manage service-level agreements that are a lot more important in cloud scenarios?
“Some government organizations are ready to handle this type of situation, but the majority are not,” Saadi said. “They are still in the early parts of their journey to evolve the skills and tools to support the dynamics of cloud.” For example, capacity and demand management are approached differently in a cloud environment. Today, most government infrastructures are designed with capacity that exceeds the maximum amount of transactions that they handle. For instance, an agency operating on local storage and computing would add anywhere from 10 to 20 percent additional capacity beyond their expected maximum workload, in order to accommodate unexpectedly high volumes. That best practice isn’t necessary in the cloud computing world. “If you really want to capitalize on what the cloud gives you in terms of efficiencies,” Saadi said, “you need to be able to scale up, and at the same time scale down to cut your costs, and fluctuate that with the number of transactions that you’re handling and the actual demand.” From an organizational perspective, personnel concerns must also be addressed. You’ll have users and application owners who are less willing to trust that these reduced resources in the cloud design will be sufficient. And they may be worried about loss of access or control. Those dynamics require unique management structures, as well as procurement and budgeting expertise. Unfortunately, many agencies don’t realize those specific needs until they are already invested in cloud. Organizations are struggling across all three of these areas, though organizational readiness is the most often overlooked requirement. Agency leaders and IT managers often focus on infrastructure and application readiness, without considering the organizational changes that have to support that. In order to determine if your organization is ready to transition to the cloud, you need both a workforce and workloads that are suitable to the new technology.
Ensuring Readiness to Move Into the Cloud
Assess Workloads From an infrastructure perspective, it’s crucial to assess the technical workloads of your applications, before transitioning any of them to the cloud. In other words, you need to ensure that performance can be maintained or even improved as different aspects of the infrastructure are transitioned.
Of course, efficiency and performance are hallmarks of cloud technology. But Saadi explained that these benefits can only be reaped if the application is appropriately automated and orchestrated before it moves to the cloud. That requires an understanding of what the application is, what it does and how it interacts with other applications. You have to achieve this level of understanding across all workloads and applications – not just those moving to the cloud. Otherwise, an application left on-premise may be negatively impacted by a cloud-transitioned application, due to its interconnectivity. In order to make those determinations, it’s recommended that agencies execute iterative, parallel deployment of applications that demonstrates performance enhancements and cost savings. Deploy your applications in waves, starting with small components and ensuring they maintain performance standards before, during and after migration. Automating this process of performance checks can be achieved with certain tools. They can also identify areas where current performance can be improved. In fact, Saadi recommends
focusing on applications where cloud can enhance performance before migration begins. “Break that adoption cycle into smaller pieces,” he said. “Optimize it, so that it runs faster with fewer resources, and declare it a small victory. Then, simulate that in a move to the cloud. Show how the application will react to a migration, then use that as your starting point for your next migration steps.” That process ensures you’re sending the most suitable applications to the cloud and guarantees you’ll reap the efficiency and performance rewards of a migration. “But I can actually argue that you can utilize and employ this step even if you decide not to move to the cloud,” Saadi said. “It will add value to the organization no matter what.” This step-by-step approach to cloud migration also helps prepare the organization, because it allows leaders to adopt new management practices and technologies over time, learning from mistakes and gaining new best practices. And if you start with applications whose owners are willing to champion cloud migrations, you’ll engender support across the organization.
Prepare Your Workforce Organizational support for cloud migrations is critical. In order to successfully migrate, agencies must not only have a technical infrastructure that can accommodate the new technology. They also require an organizational willingness and supporting skillsets to accommodate different management and cost structures.
Part of this organizational preparedness is cultural. Certain parties will be more reticent than others to migrate their applications to the cloud, due to predefined conceptions of the technology and its purpose. That’s where education and consistent messaging plays a key role. “The most important component is the need for people to understand cloud technology, and to align it with business perspectives or business drivers,” Saadi said. It’s important to highlight the benefits of cloud, especially those benefits you identified in your workload migration planning. It’s equally important, however, to align those benefits to missions and team-specific goals. That alignment builds cultural support for cloud migrations, but it also helps teams fit their structures and management processes to the technology more naturally. “Creating this strategy should really be the first step to any cloud migration,” Saadi said. “And that strategy should state the agency’s goals, what they’re trying to do and what type of impact migration will have on the organization. Then, evangelize this idea across the agency.” There is also a more tangible need within organizations preparing for cloud: technical skills. It’s common knowledge that government is facing an IT skills gap, and that disparity is even wider regarding newer technologies like cloud.
To make sure your workforce is prepared to handle cloud migration and maintenance, take the same approach to your workforce as you would to your applications. Consider each team separately, starting where you have the skills and will to migrate to the cloud. Build a gap analysis to identify where teams are lacking. You can often map current skills to evolutionary new skills. Where the appropriate tech skills are truly lacking, consider moving staff between teams to gain best practices from more cloud-proficient colleagues. In the event that there simply isn’t enough skilled staff to orchestrate multiple application migrations, hiring third-party assistance may be necessary to ensure workloads are effectively transitioned. That need has driven Govplace to ensure they constantly have a stable of cloud experts across all areas to provide targeted support and fill these gaps. “We have made significant efforts to learn collectively from both the commercial and the federal sectors to not only design a plan that will work from the technical side, but help organizations understand the impact on their teams, and even evangelize their vision and get people to adopt the change caused by cloud computing,” Saadi said.
Ensuring Readiness to Move Into the Cloud
Conclusion As agencies begin to migrate mission-critical workloads into cloud environments, itâ€™s imperative that IT leaders have the skills and understanding to effectively execute those transitions. Links between applications must be identified and integrated into plans. Performance must be optimized and maintained throughout the transition cycle. Agency leaders must be ready to support new budgets and operational processes. To ensure your agency is ready for the cloud, execute an honest assessment of the applications, infrastructure, culture and workforce that comprise your organization. Then, recognize where you might need help. If your organization isnâ€™t fully equipped to jump into cloud, ask for help before taking the leap.
Govplace is a value-added reseller and systems integrator, exclusively focused on providing the public sector with best of breed technologies, services and solutions. We bring a unique combination of California-inspired innovation and beltway understanding into each engagement to ensure our federal customers are achieving measurable business and functional outcomes. Our strategic approach to partnerships is a productselective method to ensure modernization and transformation of customer IT environments.
GovLoopâ€™s mission is to inspire public sector professionals by serving as the knowledge network for government. GovLoop connects more than 250,000 members, fostering crossgovernment collaboration, solving common problems and advancing government careers. GovLoop is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a team of dedicated professionals who share a commitment to the public sector. For more information about this report, please reach out to email@example.com
We possess an expansive portfolio of contracting vehicles to deliver integrated product and service solutions that deliver exceptional mission results. Guided by a deep understanding of government contracting and reputable expertise of leading technologies and solutions, our core capabilities cover Cloud Computing & Infrastructure, Cyber Security & Privacy, as well as IT Automation & Orchestration. For more information, www.govplace.com
Ensuring Readiness to Move Into the Cloud
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