Cloud computing and cloud services are some of the hottest and most talked-about technologies in the Federal government – and for good reason. The Federal government is constantly looking for ways to improve operational efficiency and slash costs – especially in its current, difficult budget environment.
The ability to pay for only what is needed makes cloud solutions a better, more cost effective approach to acquiring IT infrastructure than the traditional model of building large infrastructures that are only partly utilized, and then paying for their maintenance and support. Government agencies are also facing multiple mandates and initiatives to improve continuity of operations (COOP), workplace flexibility and employee mobility – all of which are areas where the cloud can pay significant dividends.
One of the ways that the Federal government is looking to implement the cloud is through operations and management services, which deliver cloud solutions that best fit an agency’s needs and requirements.
To learn more about why the cloud is increasingly essential in the Federal government, how operations and management services are making the cloud a reality across the government, and the role that cloud automation and management is playing in delivering those services, we sat down with Terrill Andrews of Accelera, a leading provider of virtual computing solutions. Here is what Terrill had to say:
Cloud Sprawl: What challenges/mandates/requirements are they facing that are making a move to the cloud imperative? What benefits are they looking to derive from the cloud?
Mr. Andrews: A big driver for cloud adoption that we’re seeing in the Federal market is a desire to get off the hardware/software lifecycle treadmill. This activity consumes a tremendous amount of time and energy, and one of the many benefits the cloud has to offer is condensing the annual budgeting cycle.
As public cloud providers mature – and as the market’s cautious perceptions around cloud security wane – it becomes harder and harder to avoid the reality that making a move to the cloud is the right thing to do.
Ancillary to that mandates like FedRAMP and the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy provide the security framework and justification Federal IT managers need to go to the cloud.
Cloud Sprawl: Why are operations and maintenance services a desirable way for the Federal government to implement cloud solutions? What added benefits do operations and maintenance services deliver? What specifically about government agencies makes these services a better cloud implementation option?
Mr. Andrews: Federal IT programs have historically relied on operations and maintenance contracts to provide the operational assurance the government needs to support their IT systems. As cloud enters the IT landscape, it brings with it the concept of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) to provide that same operational assurance. Baked into a Federal cloud contract, a properly designed and financially backed SLA can provide the operational assurance an agency needs for peace of mind.
The real value that a managed service, cloud or otherwise, provides is cost savings. Having to hire, train, and manage an in-house IT staff to provide operational assurance for IT systems can be tedious at best and wasteful at worst. Federal IT managers have to maintain the right skills mix and scheduling for the team, as well as provide career path, mentoring and benefits for each of the individuals.
In addition, there are peaks and valleys of effort associated with the ongoing management of any IT environment. During peaks you may not have all the people you need to get the job done. When you’re in a valley you still have to pay for your team’s idle bandwidth which is wasteful.
A managed service provider can provide a better service at a better price with a money back guarantee, and – in the process – hide all of the complexities of managing a dedicated IT team.
Cloud Sprawl: What challenges did Accelera face when moving into the cloud managed services space? What management, technology and client management challenges did managing cloud implementations for government agencies create?
Mr. Andrews: The biggest challenge Accelera has faced, and continues to face, with selling cloud and associated managed services is developing a customer’s trust.
A managed service is based on trust between you and your customer. The customer is essentially handing you the keys to their kingdom. They’re not going to put their job on the line if they’re not absolutely certain that you can deliver excellent service to them. Customer trust was developed in our case through thoughtful planning and continuous monitoring and refinement of our service model.
Almost universally our cloud customers require some level of management and visibility into their environments. Finding the right mix of technologies and developing the right processes to meet this need was no simple task. It required a lot trial and error, but ultimately our dedication and commitment to our customers drove us to a system that works.
Cloud Sprawl: What role are cloud automation and cloud management platforms playing in helping Accelera overcome these challenges? What capabilities are they delivering and how is that helping the company deliver its managed cloud service offerings?
Mr. Andrews: The role that cloud automation and management platforms play is extremely important in that they provide the visibility and control that our customers demand for their cloud hosted IT systems.
Cloud automation and management platforms generate customer demand for us by providing capabilities like ensuring compliance with IT policies, as well as features like scheduled shutdowns to help customers control cloud costs. These capabilities are essential for customers and offer competitive differentiation for us in the market.
Cloud Sprawl: What was Accelera looking for in a cloud automation platform? What features and capabilities were necessary?
Mr. Andrews: Cloud automation and management platforms generate customer demand for us by providing capabilities like cross-cloud visibility and reporting, ensuring compliance with IT policies, as well as features like scheduled shutdowns to help customers control cloud costs.
These capabilities are essential for customers and offer competitive differentiation for us in the market.