Even with proven results and secure solutions, fear and uncertainty of moving sensitive government systems to the cloud still linger in the public sector today. As some agencies mentally trip over traditional barriers – such as cost, resources and time – the burden for CIOs to maintain and upgrade large government systems is even heavier. Understandably so: One misstep could cause serious societal disruptions at best and the loss of life at worst.
While the list of challenges to updating federal IT systems is long and complex, modernization might not be as slow or expensive as you think. In fact, as the federal government spent more than 75 percent of the total amount budgeted for IT in fiscal year 2015 on operations and maintenance of legacy systems according to a recent GAO report, modernization could actually save the government money in the long run.
To help federal agencies separate fact from fiction, outlined below are three common myths to federal IT modernization that have been debunked due to emerging technologies and systems that have revolutionized the process.
While the perception that commercial cloud providers can’t secure systems like the government, the truth is services like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are some of the most secure environments in the world. They have multiple barriers to access their servers including crash resistant fences, internal building walls, badge readers, video cameras, metal detectors, trip alarms, 24-hour monitoring and limited personnel that have access to servers. If you didn’t know any better, you would think these cloud providers are securing Fort Knox!
Another issue is the perceived additional costs of modernization. Just thinking about the cost to migrate portions of their on-premise environments raises the blood pressure of many CIOs. For each application, the CIO knows they must migrate and configure all of the associated environments (development, test, production, etc.). This can be perceived as taking significant time and resources. But new technology and open source productsonly require a one-time configuration to set up the environment, and then only a single click to automatically deploy to the cloud as many times as is necessary within minutes.
The last myth is the assumed time it takes to modernize and push legacy systems to the cloud. It took Rover less time to land on Mars (300 days) than it typically takes to modernize federal infrastructures. In the past, it has been a painstaking long process, mostly due to waterfall methodologies, which is becoming obsolete thanks to agile. With new technologies advancing IT modernization – such as Docker – CIOs are able to build, ship and run distributed applications anywhere. Instead of building out entire virtual machines, Docker installs a container of required application components and settings, not the full operating systems, making for light-weight, self-contained systems that guarantee software will work in any environment.
Moving to the cloud using existing technologies that drive down cost, strengthen security and save time for agencies – even those with critical life-saving missions on the line – has become a reality. As the government begins to understand the level of security commercial cloud providers can deliver, as well as the power of advanced IT modernization technologies, they are slowly starting to build trust in the process.
William Hepworth is the director of solutions architecture for eGlobalTech (eGT), a leading technology and cybersecurity consulting firm in the federal government sector. With more than 25 years of IT innovation and delivery within commercial and government markets, Hepworth helps drive eGT's business acquisition, proposals and technology solutions.