Focus on the cloud

CIO-CS was designed from the outset to steer agencies toward cloud-based managed services and away from ownership, a shift that seeks to alleviate the burden of managing redundant assets. Yet the shift has been slow to take hold, and not just with regard to CIO-CS. 

Government has struggled to develop requirements for the cloud, in part because of concerns around security, including the safeguarding of sensitive data. 

“Our customers tell us they want to move to the cloud, and for at least ten years the federal government has indicated that migrating to the cloud was a priority, but it’s not been a quick transition,” says Bridget Gauer, NITAAC’s director. 

Despite the headwinds, she says, CIO-CS “continues to get cloud awards.” 
Not all of the blame should be laid at the government’s feet. Sheryl McCurnin, senior manager for federal programs at CDW·G, says industry hasn’t yet caught up with everything cloud-related that’s available through CIO-CS. 

“It’s incumbent on contractors to come to the table with solutions so government can use cloud services,” she says. “What does that mean to government customers? How do you define it? Is it the data customers need to manage or the software for them to do that themselves? It’s dependent on each customer’s individual needs.” 
CDW·G has worked with its customers to identify what they need from cloud services. Not everything at an agency should be migrated to the cloud, and the company helps agencies determine what is cloud-appropriate. Sometimes it might involve providing new hardware and software that can’t be categorized as cloud. Sometimes, it’s hard to determine just what cloud services they can use. 
Making good decisions also comes down to customers’ ability to migrate from long-term licensed products to a pay-as-you-go cloud service. That’s not so straightforward if agencies have 100,000 people who depend on a particular licensed product. It’s a long and involved migration process. “People can get scared by that,” McCurnin says. 

In many ways, she says, successful contracting is a function of how you package and sell the service, particularly as government spending on IT has decreased overall. Spending is also shifting away from capital expenditures and toward operation and maintenance. Cloud services fit the trend because vendors own the equipment and have responsibility for upkeep, maintenance and technology upgrades. 

“The CIO-CS contract is well-prepared for how to package and sell those services through consistent and predictable billing mechanisms,” McCurnin says. “It’s often a hard discussion to have with an agency’s IT department, about them having to give up the equipment they own, but the technology they now have is getting old, so as a Service is the obvious way for them for the future.” 

For its part, NITAAC has been developing a cloud-ordering guide that spells out best practices that CIO-CS customers and agency contracting officers can use when buying cloud services off the contract, along with tips and companion templates. That should be released soon, Gauer says, along with webinars about buying cloud services. Blogs and white papers on the topic will be released, as well.