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4 pro tips for federal agencies moving to the cloud

Consider these cloud project, roadmap, training, pricing, and other nuggets of advice.

By Margaret Lindquist | March 2021


4 pro tips for federal agencies moving to the cloud

Federal agencies can start their move to cloud computing by taking advantage of lessons learned at the state and local levels, particularly from those implementations with similar goals and sizes, according to participants in a session at the Oracle One Federal online event in January.

Session speakers offered fed agencies the following four pieces of advice gleaned from their state and local experiences:

1. Choose a low risk/high reward project

Disaster recovery is a great place to start, said Todd Matters, CTO at RackWare. It’s less likely to endanger the stability of production environments, and disaster recovery in the cloud is just a better, cheaper solution, he said.

Starting in the cloud with disaster recovery allows agency implementers to take their time learning about the cloud’s capabilities and planning for other use cases. “Initially, it might sound a little counterintuitive, but it solves a very important IT function,” Matters said.

Scott Tesnow, vice president for federal consulting at Mythics, said his team sits down with clients to create a simple matrix that compares the lowest-risk workloads and applications that deliver the highest value. “More often than not, that’s a nonproduction system, such as a task in a development environment or a disaster recovery environment,” Tesnow said.

2. Create a roadmap

What used to take federal agencies months and months to assess, resulting in a kind of analysis paralysis, they can now do in weeks because of the work already done in the partner and integrator communities, Tesnow said. “They’ve got great best practices and blueprints that weren’t available even a year ago,” he added.

An effective agency plan will incorporate the bill of materials for the cloud products, the costs and schedules for the migration, and all of the specific security requirements. Beyond that, it’s critical that implementers understand the expectations and requirements of various government security agencies and other stakeholders.

“The government’s done a fantastic job documenting all the different policies, but there’s still a fair amount of subjectivity that’s pretty important when dealing with security authorizers,” said Chris Pasternak, managing director for North America Oracle Technology at Accenture. “You may not know your target cloud environment or what the end state is going to be, but you can start to build relationships and figure out who will be doing your sign-offs.”

 

“You may not know your target cloud environment or what the end state is going to be, but you can start to build relationships and figure out who will be doing your sign-offs.”

Chris Pasternak, Managing Director for North America Oracle Technology, Accenture

3. Make sure your team is cloud-ready

Your agency IT team must buy in to the vision from the start. It’s critical that people understand what their role is in the new environment, said David Knox, group vice president for public sector software at Oracle.

It’s not enough just to make training available. IT leaders must incentivize their people to take the necessary training by giving them time during their work week and by showing them the value of having cloud certifications on their resume.

“Government IT leaders are able to transform the mindset of organizations that are maybe a little bit scared,” Knox said. “People want to stay relevant, and to stay relevant they need to keep their skills current. Organizations should not just allow their employees to do that, but also offer opportunities in such a way that it becomes easy.”

4. Understand the cloud pricing model

Most federal customers have been using Oracle technology on-premises for years, so moving to a cloud subscription model comes with uncertainties. For example, the cost of on-premises servers hits the books at the time of the capital expense, “and that could have been three years ago,” Knox said. “So maybe looking back over the last couple of years, they don’t see a big capital expenditure on that.”

If some new cloud customers experience sticker shock, it may be because they overprovisioned their cloud, buying capacity in line with the full capacity of their current on-premises servers. Instead, agency cloud planners should look at current usage rather than capacity. In addition, agencies often forget to factor in the other costs of on-premises computing—such as electricity, air conditioning, and equipment maintenance—when comparing their cloud costs, Tesnow said.

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Illustration: Wes Rowell

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist is a senior director and writer at Oracle.