7 challenges to 'cloud first'

A new report from the Government Accountability Office found seven agencies that have successfully aligned their cloud adoption efforts with the cloud-first policy. However, they still need to do more planning or their overall cloud migration endeavors could be jeopardized, the watchdog cautioned. 

GAO looked at the selected agencies -- the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State and Treasury; the General Services Administration and the Small Business Administration – and found each had incorporated cloud computing requirements into their policies and processes. State, for example, had integrated a review of its IT investment portfolio to identify candidates for cloud solutions. Similarly, USDA identified cloud computing as a high priority and adopted the “cloud-first” policy of moving existing, or offering new, IT services to a cloud environment.

Additionally, each of the seven agencies met OMB deadlines to identify three cloud implementations by February 2011 and to adopt at least one service by December 2011. Two agencies, however, have postponed their plans to implement three services by June 2012: USDA plans to complete its Document Management and Correspondence Tracking system in September 2012 and SBA intends to complete one of its services in August 2012 and another in December 2012.

None of these implementations or the transition overall came without their obstacles. GAO identified seven common challenges associated with the overall adoption of OMB’s cloud-first policy:

1. Meeting federal security requirements

2. Getting guidance

3. Acquiring knowledge and expertise

4. Certifying and accrediting vendors

5. Ensuring data portability and interoperability

6. Overcoming cultural barriers

7. Procuring services on a consumption basis

In their individual cloud implementation efforts, GAO also noted agencies’plans often lacked crucial information, such as performance goals or legacy system retirement plans. “Without complete information, agencies are not in a position to know whether the implementation of the selected services was cost-effective and whether the cost savings generated from retiring legacy systems were realized,” the report stated.

GAO said agencies need to develop estimated costs, milestones, performance goals and plans for legacy systems when considering their cloud migration. “Until agencies’ cloud implementations are sufficiently planned and relevant systems are retired, the benefits of federal efforts to implement cloud solutions—improved operational efficiencies and reduced costs associated with retiring legacy systems—may be delayed or not fully realized,” the report warned.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jul 13, 2012 OccupyIT

The biggest challenge to "Cloud First" is "Cloud First". Any IT CO that sees a policy that prescribes a technology instead of a outcome should shake their head in shame. Might as well have said "Blackberry First" or "Oracle First" or any other mislead opinion that we should be buying Technology and not Solutions. It has, as usual and historical, distorted and distracted the senior IT management and ongoing, successful projects that are meeting their customer's needs. Is Cloud a good solution to SOME commodity IT problems? Of course! And the policy was a great educational tool. Is it Nirvana? Of course not! Most agencies aren't even aware of the number of project-level efforts already utilizing Cloud (the tend to only see and care about the bloated central programs). They are even now creating Frankensteins so they can show Cloud - I've seen a project that stick built a system that rides on SalesForce.com's proprietary platform but since SalesForce advertises they use Cloud to deliver what is SoftwareAsAService (SaaS) they count it as Cloud. Who care what a vendor does to deliver their SLA? We need to look closer at the SLA and understand the downside we traded for commodity access. Cloud-First will be remembered at another good idea turned into a bad idea by the bully pulpit of a CIO/CTO that isn't Mission-First.

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