Cloud computing offers benefits and efficiencies, but agencies need to go through the application rationalization process and decide what works best for their situation, said Deputy Federal CIO Margie Graves and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy CIO Steve Rice.

During a Q&A session at the Advanced Technology and Research Center’s (ATARC’s) Federal Technology Modernization Summit, audience members expressed their concerns with adopting cloud. Citing the concern over cybersecurity, vendor failure, and quality controls, they asked how Federal IT leaders are addressing these concerns.

“I think the real intent of the Cloud Smart policy is to encourage you to look at the appropriate systems that should be placed in the appropriate arenas for their security requirements, as well as for the mission support they provide,” said Graves. “However, the way that we govern the actual implementation of these things is through the governance and the contractual mechanisms that we share with GSA [the General Services Administration]. There are a lot of roll up your sleeves activities that have to be done, both on the contractual side as well as on the technical side. That gets done through those governance boards where every agency has representation at the table.”

Rice touched on some of the strengths of the cloud and where it can be most useful.

“When we start talking about data center migration, the cloud gives us a great inventory and allows us to start understanding how to be wiser,” said Rice. “We have better ability to do analytics, we’re able to share data, but the understanding is that there’s still a lot of roll up your sleeves basic engineering, basic design, and basic operations that go to the cloud. It opens doors that we had not had available to us, to allow much more efficient delivery of services, and allows us to be much more efficient in how we consume those services.”

However, he acknowledged some of the concerns that people have around the technology.

“There’s a lot of unknowns here,” acknowledged Rice. “What we are finding is [we need to have our] eyes wide open. This is not a discussion about just the CIO saying, ‘let’s go to cloud.’ It’s a conversation of understanding the legacy debt that exists within infrastructure today, understanding the contractual limitations you have with the services, whether you own and operate a data center, lease a data center, or you have legacy debt where you just can’t maximize the efficiency.”

“I see a continued ratcheting down of what falls in the [high-value asset] bucket and making a real strong case that that should be the case. However, there will always be some hybrid environments and on-prem. It’s all about the application rationalization,” said Graves.

Rice added, “I can’t say it’s a nirvana, but what we’re saying here is that I don’t know if we’ll be full cloud. I think we’ll be more of a hybrid mode.”

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MeriTalk Staff