Federal Adoption of Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is quickly growing in popularity as a way for organizations to economically access computing resources without the need to procure or maintain the associated equipment. IaaS allows agencies the ability to pay for resources as needed, including storage, hardware and networking capabilities.

The U.S. Federal Government Cloud First policy provides a mandate that Federal agencies

“take full advantage of cloud computing benefits to maximize capacity utilization, improve IT flexibility and responsiveness, and minimize costs.”

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) advocates the use of IaaS because it is secure, rapidly expandable and economical.  GSA maintains a webpage dedicated to IaaS; providing guidance to agencies interested in procuring IaaS services.

Delivery

According to a recent research paper, The Download, Cloud Computing Research Study, IaaS is provided in a variety of ways:

  • Public Cloud – The organization that sells services owns the cloud infrastructure and makes it available to the department, agency, industry, or general public
  • Private Cloud – As the title suggests, this cloud infrastructure is dedicated to a particular agency or department. The equipment can be located onsite or remotely and may by managed by either the designated agency or a third party.
  • Community Cloud – This delivery method allows infrastructure to be shared by several agencies, branches or departments having common interests such as compliance or policy considerations, security requirements, records management, or mission. Management and physical location of the equipment can vary, similar to a private cloud infrastructure.
  • Hybrid Cloud – When two or more cloud infrastructures types are combined, (private, community, or public) they become a hybrid. They are connected by proprietary or standardized technology that facilitates application and data portability.

Many Federal agencies are either using or investigating the future use of IaaS in the following ways:

  • Backup and Recovery
  • Storage
  • Computing
  • Content Delivery Networks
  • Services Management
  • Multi-Cloud Management

Preparing for Deployment

The publication, Modern Cloud for a Modern Government, outlines considerations and preparations that organizations should undertake prior to deployment of IaaS.

  • Review agency mission and objectives – This task involves analyzing the environment as it stands pre-deployment and creating strategies to position services so that growth and expansion are easily facilitated. Consider ways to deliver more targeted services and methods for reducing cost.
  • Define the strategy for the cloud – Evaluate policy, program, and transaction services that would benefit from IaaS and should potentially be included in the transition. Identify target markets and audiences.
  • Consider current initiatives – Use a transition to IaaS to streamline programs and consolidate initiatives where possible.
  • Create an implementation strategy – Determine the initial components required to support an implementation strategy. First steps should be complementary to existing systems which will be maintained and provide the basis for future growth.

Potential Cultural Challenges

The Federal Times reported that the primary barriers to Government-wide adoption of IaaS may not be cost or even security, but rather a more organic one. Managerial and cultural challenges are cited as the main reasons that agencies struggle to adopt IaaS technology.  The transition to IaaS requires a cultural shift and possible changes to workflow. There are also budgeting and procurement changes to consider when moving from capital procurements to service providers.

As challenging as a new technology service may be, finding cost effective answers to sharing information, improving operational efficiency, and integrating processes across a variety of planes and boundaries is a necessary Government initiative. IaaS has the potential to allow agencies to improve efficiencies while managing costs.

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