cloudSeveral factors are constraining cloud adoption in government IT — control over data prominent among them, according to a study from public-private partnership MeriTalk underwritten by Cisco and Red Hat.

Seventy-five percent of cloud users across the federal government would like to move more services to the cloud, but concerns “about retaining control over their data” are preventing them, according to MeriTalk’s findings. In addition, 53 percent of survey respondents said fear of long-term contracts is holding them back.

Among other factors constraining cloud adoption in the government sector are data integration and portability issues, according to MeriTalk’s “Cloud Without the Commitment” report. Cloud/legacy system integration was cited by 58 percent of survey respondents as a barrier.

Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents said the inability to migrate data from existing systems to cloud platforms was an issue. Fifty-four percent cited concerns about moving data once moved to the cloud.

Furthermore, data sovereignty and security issues preclude an estimated 32 percent of federal agency data from being moved to the cloud. Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of federal agencies said they aren’t comfortable “passing sensitive Federal data to even FedRAMP-certified cloud providers.”

Government Cloud User Survey: Successes
Over half (53 percent) of federal government IT respondents said their experiments with cloud services had been very successful. “Feds who use/are open to using open source are seeing greater cloud success than average,” MeriTalk highlights.

Data security was said to have improved as a result of moving IT services to the cloud according to 72 percent of federal respondents. That’s compared to 47 percent of those “not using/open to using open source options.” In addition, 56 percent said they are very satisfied with cloud agility as compared to 34 percent of their peers.

“Open source is not only driving much of the technology innovation in cloud, it is also enabling government agencies to answer their questions about cloud portability and integration,” Red Hat’s senior director for Government Channel Sales Mike Byrd was quoted in a news release. “In this way, it is not surprising to me that the survey respondents who have embraced open source reported greater cloud success.”

Bringing in outside help can be helpful in government cloud initiatives MeriTalk also found. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they have worked with a consultant that carried out readiness assessments and helped “navigate cloud migration.”

It appears that federal government IT needs to do more in the way of preliminary planning and assessments in order to enhance the likelihood of success of a migration to the cloud, according to MeriTalk. “Sixty-five percent reported they are not completing a workload analysis to define the data/services/workloads to migrate the cloud or centralizing IT governance; and 60 percent are not developing a cost model,” MeriTalk points out.

All that said, initiatives including Cloud First and FedRAMP are resulting in federal government IT increasingly “testing the waters.” Nineteen percent of respondents said cloud services partially or fully deliver IT services for their federal agencies.

What They’re Migrating
Cloud migration at the federal government level is proceeding faster among certain applications and services. Email is first; half of those who have implemented cloud services reported migrating email to the cloud. Forty-five percent said they have moved Web hosting, and 43 percent said they have migrated servers/storage to the cloud.

Less than one in five (19 percent) have migrated middleware/development tools. Twenty-six percent reported having migrated ERP solutions to the cloud and 31 percent disaster recovery.

“Particularly with mission-critical systems, Feds want assurance they can integrate with legacy tools, and easily migrate data between the two,” commented Mike Younkers, director, US Federal Systems Engineering, Cisco. “Open source opens up new options. And, Feds using open source are reporting positive results.”

Feds don’t have to always be the bridesmaid when it comes to cloud,” added MeriTalk founder Steve O’Keeffe. “Connect with peers who have been down the aisle. And if you feel locked in – get a good prenup. Cloud is all about choice and agility. Otherwise, we end up back where we started.”

MeriTalk also offers recommendations for government IT when considering cloud adoption:

  • Start Small: Feds have found success in the cloud by first migrating services with fewer security/privacy concerns and less reliability/operational risk. Build a model for success;
  • Ensure Your Provider Fits: Each agency has unique needs. Ensure your cloud provider can integrate cloud data with legacy systems;
  • Consider Open Options: It’s not results, but fear of commitment that holds Feds back from further cloud adoption. Explore solutions that deliver long-term flexibility.

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