Cloud

Agencies see a long and expensive path to the cloud

Shutterstock image (by wk1003mike): cloud image superimposed upon a circuit board.

It's a long, expensive road to the cloud, according to officials at the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Marine Corps.

At a July 19 industry event, top tech officials at the FCC and USMC emphasized the importance of modernizing their legacy IT to cloud-based commercial services, but they warned audience members that the process is anything but easy.

"When you bring on new capability, there's always a transition period," John Skudlarek, the FCC's deputy CIO, said at Nutanix's  National Press Club event on enterprise cloud solutions. "Of course we want to be able to do more for less in this fiscal environment, but cloud is not free."  

Skudlarek stressed that the agency's recent server migration has made data and systems more secure, and added that this is a "complex environment" to work in, especially when it came to the FCC's server lift in 2015. This was not a simple process, according to Skudlarek, but it was "absolutely the right thing to do."

New legislation in Congress also promotes these types of modernization moves. Skudlarek and the Chief Technology Advisor for the U.S. Marine Corps, Daniel Corbin, both acknowledged that this is the direction federal IT is moving.

The Marine Corps' transition to cloud is even more complicated, given the amount of classified information that is stored in USMC data centers. While there is no plan to house classified data in commercial clouds, new policy allows for certain types of sensitive data to be stored in cloud environments.  Their eventual plans will depend a lot on what the Pentagon decides to do in terms of their overall cloud strategy. For now, Corbin said, the Corps is looking to more cloud-based services and closing data centers. An overall USMC strategy will be released in the fall, he said, since it is in the "internal socializing" phase right now.

Skudlarek noted that the FCC's path to the cloud is not as complicated as that of Defense agencies. FCC data includes all commercial spectrum holdings, all data from cell towers, but it is still not used to store national security information. Even so, he said, "2017 is probably our stretch goal," adding that it will most likely "take a little bit longer."

Both officials said the upcoming administration change is unlikely to affect their cloud migration efforts. "Even with the change of leadership, I don't think we are going to put this genie back in the bottle," Skudlarek said, noting that there is a great demand for going wireless and moving in the direction for capabilities that cloud-based services provide. 

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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