Moving to the cloud (or finding reasons to wait)

A new survey of federal cloud efforts finds a number of pitfalls, both real and perceived, as agencies migrate to a cloud services provider.

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Shutterstock image: cloud hands.

A new research study -- conducted by Market Connections, Inc. and commissioned by General Dynamics -- explores the status of federal agencies' plans, concerns and perceptions of cloud solutions, in an effort to highlight those factors which may contribute to a successful cloud migration.

Three-quarters (73%) of respondents indicated that their agency was either researching / considering the use of services from cloud providers or currently using / planning to use software as a service (SaaS) within the next year, while two-thirds of respondents (66%) indicated a similar interest or investment in platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and managed hosting. The following table displays the status of respondents' plans, or lack thereof, concerning a migration to cloud technology as sorted by category of service.

Cloud Computing Current Use and Plans
No plans Researching / considering services from cloud providers Currently using / plan to use in the next 12 months
Platform as a Service 34% 35% 31%
Infrastructure as a Service 34% 35% 31%
Managed Hosting 33% 31% 35%
Software as a Service 27% 40% 33%

According to the study's findings, agencies are predominantly concerned with the security risks that can result from cloud-based solutions -- e.g., unauthorized access to or leak of proprietary data (69%), security defects in the technology itself (65%) and difficulty with or inability for data recovery if the provider fails (45%). 

Performance-based Issues in the Cloud
Migration of applications to the cloud 29%
Lack of data segregation among provider's customers 27%
Difficulty with or inability for data recovery if service is canceled 25%
Vender lock-in 23%
Lack of maturity of the technology 23%

"Of the five performance-based issues to choose from...less than one-third of respondents listed any of them among their primary concerns," and each of the issues addressed within the report (and listed in the table to the right) pose a threat to mission initiatives if not thoroughly considered before entering into an agreement with a cloud service provider.

The secure infrastructure and cost savings attributed to cloud services are often the result of an ideal system, which does not account for the additional costs of data loss, breaches in security, or the migration of data from one service provider to another. With the benefits and risks of migrating to cloud-based services in mind, Market Connections' research concluded that several factors may assist agencies a successful cloud migration:

  • "Addressing performance issues...[by bringing] in a partner that understands the issues and can help manage migrations will keep performance stable and save the agency money in the long run."
  • "Adopting a cloud strategy that provides the flexibility to respond to current and future requirements."
  • "Working with a cloud services provider that has a depth of experience...[who] can identify issues and pitfalls" and has had experience working with the federal government.
  • "Avoiding vendor lock-in and the issues it can cause for future migrations."

SOURCE: Marketing Connections, "White Paper: The Keys to Successful Cloud Migrations"

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