November 27, 2017

REI Systems has recently been published in Federal Times for commentary on when government agencies should migrate to the cloud and on what to migrate. This article, “Cloud first… but not always,” is based on a white paper by REI Systems’ John Druitt and Wagish Bhartiya. An excerpt from the article is below:

President Obama introduced a cloud-first strategy in 2011, when then-U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra directed agencies to consider a cloud computing option first. President Trump is continuing the emphasis on cloud with the (draft) August 2017 “Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization.”

Despite this attention, government has been slow to move toward the cloud. In a Government Business Council survey, just 19 percent of respondents indicated that their agency “extensively uses applications developed for the cloud” or is “piloting some applications developed for the cloud.” The remaining clear majority – 81 percent – acknowledged that their agency had not yet begun a substantial move to the cloud, or were not aware of progress.

Why has the pace of movement been so slow? There are several reasons at play. Cloud adoption has been slower than expected, in part because an understanding of the benefits and advantages of the cloud aren’t always clear. Indeed, the potential short-term costs can be substantial and the migration to the cloud comes with risks and uncertainty, especially around security. Furthermore, a transition to cloud often calls for some organizational change (what to do about staffing in a data center?), and potential changes to the architecture of some software applications. Pressure to shift towards the cloud is usually a long-term topic, in which decision-makers are confronted by short-term pressures.

To balance that conflict, it is useful to consider cloud migration in the private sector, particularly the motivations and conceptual “rules of thumb” for when companies move to the cloud, and what they choose to move. Conversely, it’s also helpful to recognize when, what, and why companies do not move to the cloud. This paper summarizes these “rules of thumb” and suggests which best apply to government, with a conclusion that “cloud first” doesn’t mean cloud always.