There’s no doubt that moving to the cloud is a high priority for federal agencies and not just because of the current Cloud Smart policy. Other key cloud adoption drivers include reducing cost, improving cybersecurity and delivering services more efficiently. Agency IT leaders are also eyeing cloud platforms to help accelerate strategies around emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and the internet of things (IoT). And, while concerns around security and migration complexity have slowed government cloud migration to date, it’s beginning to pick up speed. Nearly half of government agencies are actively using cloud services today, and government spend on public cloud services is expected to grow 17.1% on average per year through 2021 according to Gartner.[i] As further confirmation, Deltek expects federal cloud spend to grow to $9.1 billion by 2024, a 5x increase over 2016 spend ($1.8 billion).[ii]
Federal cloud spend is expected to grow to $9.1 billion by 2024, a 5x increase over 2016 spend.
A deeper look into the federal cloud journey – IaaS, PaaS or SaaS
Like the private sector, government agencies are pursuing different cloud models depending on their needs, but the General Services Administration (GSA) has defined three basic cloud service models to help guide agency leaders in their journey:[iii]
- Software as a Service (SaaS): Outsource everything including application code – the vendor licenses an application for use as a service on demand. This approach has the least control and minimal maintenance responsibility.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): Outsource infrastructure operations – the vendor provides a pre-configured computing platform and solution stack as a service. The provider is responsible for system administration, patching and networking, while the user is responsible for maintaining applications. This approach has medium control and maintenance responsibility.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Outsource infrastructure – the vendor provides physical or virtual computing infrastructure as a service. The provider is responsible for the maintaining the physical parts of the infrastructure (power, cooling, racks, etc.), while the user is responsible for system administration, patching, networking and applications. This approach has the most control and maintenance responsibility.
Similar to most organizations, government agencies typically start their cloud journey by moving on-premises workloads to the cloud while still retaining a large degree of control, an approach that favors IaaS and PaaS. Increasingly, however, spending is moving toward SaaS as agencies grow more comfortable with cloud. In recent a Ponemon Institute survey of 618 federal IT practitioners, 76% anticipate that SaaS will be essential or important over the next two years, versus only 30% of respondents who said PaaS will be important.[iv]
Of federal IT practitioners believe that SaaS will be essential or important over the next two years.
Regardless of which model is pursued, many agencies are finding that some legacy applications cannot be moved to the cloud. In these cases, a cloud adjacent strategy can help ensure tighter integration between legacy systems and newly adopted cloud services. By placing legacy applications and infrastructure in close proximity to one or more cloud services, agencies can reduce cost and complexity, while improving performance, reliability and security.
When it comes to cloud complexity, industry partners offer crucial assistance to the government. Agency investment in cloud engineering services grew to $1.3 billion in 2018, a 3.7x increase over 2016 spend.
Industry partner ecosystems are key to success
As government cloud adoption accelerates, it’s also adding a burden of complexity that many agencies are not equipped to handle. Industry partners offer crucial assistance in migration and management services to bridge the gap. Agency investment in cloud engineering services, including software development, technical support and multicloud integration, grew to $1.3 billion in 2018, a 3.7x increase over 2016 spend ($337 million).ii
Many of the industry partners that are helping federal agencies make the leap to cloud, such as Knight Point, Dell and IBM are part of the interconnected government ecosystem at Equinix. As the world’s largest interconnected ecosystem of organizations from every industry, Platform Equinix includes more than 9,800 companies, 2,900 cloud and IT providers and 1,800 network providers across the globe. Government network providers that offer contract vehicles such as GSA EIS, Networx and WITS are also part of the Equinix ecosystem.
5 steps to connecting to the ecosystems that matter most
So what’s the best way for federal agencies to connect to the partner ecosystems they need to advance their cloud initiatives? An Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) approach helps to overcome the barriers of traditional one-to-one connectivity to partners. The IOA Ecosystems Blueprint[J5] outlines five steps that agencies can take build a distributed network of secure, interconnected edge nodes that enable one-to-many interconnections to a wide set of potential partners in dispersed regions:
- Localize public digital services and improve the user experience by shortening the distance to partner and user locations. Route local transactions securely through an edge node to minimize response times.
- Integrate multicloud agency service flows by leveraging ecosystem interconnections at edge nodes to optimize multicloud workload integration, push applications closer to partners and users and reduce latency.
- Scale agency volumes for digital by distributing workloads across geographically dispersed, interconnected edge nodes near partners and users to provide secure, dynamically routed, resilient paths and capacity that adjust to spikes in demand. Tailor each node for local services at that location to enable performance that scales on demand.
- Apply global transactional compliance by driving policy enforcement to local regions through edge-based service chaining. Leverage ecosystems at the edge to include audit logging services and data repositories that hold local compliance policies. Invoke policy-driven segmentation at the edge nodes and ensure that localized regulations are applied to inter-cloud interactions with appropriate segmentation.
- Build digital partner value chains to adapt to changing agency needs across unpredictable events, new regulations, partners and technologies by dynamically rerouting traffic and adding new services (agency service chains).
A global interconnection solution such as Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™) makes it easy for agencies to implement these steps and expand services on demand through a rich ecosystem of partners in any region.
Learn more about enabling an interconnected government.
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[iii] U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Cloud Information Center, Why Cloud?: Basics – Cloud Service Models and Cloud Planning Technical Implementation – Maintenance (as adopted from the National Institute of Technology and Standards (NIST) Definition of Cloud Computing).