Introduction to Cloud Computing: A Primer to Understanding the Key Value and Opportunities from Cloud Computing for Government-based Organizations

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. What is Cloud Computing?
  3. Advantages from Cloud Computing
  4. Summary

1. Summary

Government-based organizations are facing a complicated array of competing priorities. From consolidation to new legislation, organizations must move faster than ever while navigating the growing complexities. The Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization (2017) 1, Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 2 (FISMA), and Presidential Executive Order 13800 3 (EO 13800) all highlight the need to modernize the government’s IT systems while increasing the level of cybersecurity protection.

In this new era, the reliance on technology is stronger than ever. From cybersecurity to cloud computing to data management, technology is no longer an option but rather a requirement. Put another way, many of today’s advanced services and solutions are no longer possible without the use of technology. The Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization stated: “The existing federated and distributed approach to IT is no longer sustainable in an increasingly mobile, cloud-based and complex digital world.

As the rate of change increases at a dizzying pace, organizations struggle to clearly understand how best to leverage the right technology to solve their growing list of challenges. It seems no one is immune as these challenges impact organizations regardless of perspective, industry, or geography.

Many organizations believe they can rely on the same technology solutions and paradigms that have served them well for the past two to three decades. Unfortunately, this is a flawed belief that leads to negative outcomes. It is time for a demonstrative change, and cloud computing presents one of the most significant opportunities for organizations struggling to bridge the gap.

Cloud computing has now reached a mature state where even the most sensitive requirements are met with appropriate solutions. Regardless of whether the organization is managing secure or non-secure missions, the variety of cloud solutions provides a menu of options that complement the requirements.

Today, most federal government reports encourage agencies to “enable use” and “accelerate adoption of cloud,” where appropriate, as part of their modernization efforts.

Organizations often leverage cloud computing to meet one of two core objectives: 1) to change their operational paradigm to increase efficiency, such as mandated in recent legislation focused on technology modernization, or 2) to present new opportunities not previously possible or feasible using traditional solutions and approaches. Increasingly, organizations are shifting to meet both objectives rather than only focusing on one or the other.

While cloud computing is not new, there are a number of factors driving the relatively recent increase in adoption. These factors are in addition to the previously mentioned federal guidelines and reports.

The changing organizational paradigm

Organizations are looking to change the way they engage stakeholders and constituents while increasing efficiency and speed. At the same time, the dynamics affecting these aspects are changing at an increasing rate. The changes in business metrics and the requirement to increase agility drive changes both culturally and physically.

From a cultural standpoint, organizations are shifting their focus to those technologies that are strategic or differentiating. Previously, organizations needed to do everything themselves because there were few reasonable options. The landscape has since changed demonstrably, so that mature solutions now exist in ways organizations can confidently leverage. Cloud computing is a good example of one such solution.

These changes drive organizations to a consumption-based paradigm. That is, a model where organizations use only what they need, which ultimately provides an opportunity to efficiencies through the elimination of waste. Cloud computing is a consumption-based way to deliver computing resources. In the past, organizations were required to build to peak performance even when they might not need it. This lead to significant overbuilding and ultimately waste.

The impact of government-specific challenges

For government-based organizations, the list of challenges is both longer and more complicated. Specific requirements from each organization (Department of Defense (DoD), Local/ State Government, Information Technology (IT) or Policy Teams, Federal Civilians or other government entity) just add to the complexity.

Since 2010, the federal government’s Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative 4 (FDCCI) has looked to reduce the number of data centers and ultimately their technology footprint as one form of modernization. FDCCI also encouraged agencies to adopt cloud-based solutions as part of the Cloud First Initiative. In 2014, the President signed the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act 5 (FITARA) into law which further encourages agencies to leverage cloud-based services that support the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program 6 (FedRAMP). In 2016, the Data Center Optimization Initiative 7 (DCOI) superseded FDCCI and further increased the priority to modernize technology and leverage cloud.

Even though government organizations are looking to combat this complexity through streamlining their operations, challenges exist. Part of the opportunity to modernize also shifts responsibility to other potentially non-government organizations (NGOs). The shift can present challenges regardless of secret or non-secret missions. Therefore, it is important to consider the full impact of the opportunities.


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