The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Cloud computing for government, part 3 of 3

Posted by riverbedtest on October 10, 2011

Cloud-computing-panel Today we conclude my three-part series on government cloud computing. Be sure to read part one and part two in case you missed them.


What’s the status of standards for the cloud? What do agencies need to keep in mind as they develop their cloud strategies?

Typically, standards lag innovation. Cloud computing is one of the IT industry’s most rapidly-evolving developments—providers add new features and services several times every month, it seems. Although standards around APIs are in their nascent stages, I’m not sure that cloud standards are mature enough yet to be a major part of the decision process for choosing a provider. More important, I think, is that a provider offer a graceful way to retrieve and remove your data and processing workloads should you ever decide to move elsewhere. Look for providers who clearly state that your data belongs to you, not to them. Avoid providers who won’t make this assurance.

What does moving to the cloud mean for an agency's IT resources? Will “regular” IT skills suffice, or is something else needed?

Technical challenges aside, the personnel issue is, in my observation, one of the biggest barriers to cloud adoption. No one ever publicly declares that they’re going to resist cloud for fear of losing their job, but I know from experience that such fears exist. IT staff will require new skills. Good IT staff will relish the opportunities—they can gain a better understanding of the agency’s business and provide greater value. Bernard Golden, CEO of Hyperstratus, regularly writes about how cloud computing will fundamentally alter the human element of IT. The entire history of technological advancement has affected every form of work ever devised. There are no more buggy-whip manufacturers in the United States; the good ones figured out how to build automobile starters.

At what point can you call a cloud-based IT project a success?

To call something a success sounds like it has to reach some kind of conclusion—a way to know that a project is finished. Not to sound evasive, but one intriguing aspect of using the cloud for IT projects is that they never truly have to be done. “Done” is a side-effect of old-style waterfall development methodologies, which began with an end state in mind. Agile development methodologies have largely replaced waterfall development, and cloud computing is the ideal platform for agile development. The cloud’s on-demand resource elasticity permits continuous updates and improvements. IT projects become iterative and can easily adapt to meet the ever evolving needs of agency business. “Done” is no longer a requirement; success comes from knowing that new functionality can be envisioned, developed, tested, and deployed quickly without disrupting existing operations.

What are going to be the major drivers in the government cloud space in the next 3-5 years? Is there anything else that could emerge that's not evident now?

I believe finding a champion to replace Vivek Kundra’s passion is absolutely essential. While on-going financial pressures could conceivably be the primary (or even sole) driver for government compute consolidation, someone who can keep prodding all agencies with a grand vision is still important at this stage. Also, as IT staff members retire, I’d suggest that agencies look for replacements with some experience developing for and managing cloud resources. Such staff will already understand how to adapt their work skills and strategies as cloud computing continues its relentless evolution. As for predicting how the cloud space itself will evolve, well, today’s reality certainly looks different than predictions from three years ago! I’m certain, though, that the explosive growth of data we’ve seen over the past few years will continue apace. All that data has to go somewhere and the cloud is the best place for that.

What will be your company's strategy for the government cloud space over the next few years?

We’ll continue to strive to make the cloud easier and faster for agencies. We work closely with our Federal customers and partners to ensure we’re building the right products and creating useful guidance. We’ll continue to pursue appropriate certifications and compliance so that agencies can rely on Riverbed’s technology to safely accelerate their move to the cloud.

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