Liz Heiston is national account manager at Hitachi Data Systems Federal Corporation.

Two years into the program, FedRAMP has proven its ability to create a marketplace where federal agencies can safely navigate their way to the cloud by way of cloud service providers. This move has afforded agencies unprecedented access to their data from wherever they are, whenever they want it — allowing them to consolidate infrastructures and share information amongst themselves and with each other.

This is only one piece of a larger puzzle however, since geo-dispersed and federated tiered data present a system management nightmare if not properly implemented. A successful and cost-efficient cloud migration requires not only the increased security offered by FedRAMP, but also a comprehensive set of automated data and highly intuitive system management capabilities that enhance the cloud technology.

FedRAMP provides the security policies and governance, while the industry must provide the tools and know-how to realize the vision and provide the efficiency required for government agencies. With the increasing pool of government cloud providers and the expanding scope of automation and virtualization tools that will make the transition to the cloud more seamless, greater government savings and innovation is on the horizon.

Managing disparate data systems

One oft-overlooked barrier to cloud adoption is the ability to manage, manipulate and organize local data efficiently so it can be packaged and directed to its new home in the most seamless and cost-effective way possible.

Government agencies face a number of challenges, including disparate systems and multiple management points, lack of visibility or automation across data centers, and low levels of shared or unified resources. Data and systems can be available but not necessarily accessible, which drives down flexibility and utilization, while increasing complexity and cost.

For many federal agencies, the first step of the solution has been to move to the cloud, where they can consolidate and centralize command and control to access infrastructures and data anywhere, anytime. Unfortunately, for many agencies, the historically siloed nature of data and infrastructure presents unique challenges to move to the cloud.

Like previous efforts to facilitate access to information, problems arise when an agency's data, all with disparate functions, protocols, proprietary formats and legal owners, needs to be organized and migrated to a singular location. Naturally, this process demands a very complex, automated IT architecture that can sift through, manage and organize this stove-piped information.

As a result, agencies must adopt a government-defined IT model, where technologies, solutions and processes are applied in a holistic, unified manner. By using automation to integrate storage, infrastructure, data protection and management into a converged architecture, government agencies can build the foundation needed to move to the cloud.

The FedRAMP on-ramp

Getting to the cloud requires that agencies first understand the nature and location of data and the placement options. This evaluation is essential in driving down an agency's total cost of ownership by determining how much data needs to be on primary storage, and what data has been latent and should therefore be moved to a more efficient, long-term storage tier.

With an automated, centrally managed environment in place, agencies are much better equipped to organize their data in an efficient manner should they decide to transition to the cloud. Ultimately, this assessment and subsequent reorganization of information based on its importance and other factors is a key to enabling agencies to do more with less.

The right data management, virtualization and automation solutions allow organizations to operate freely throughout their data environment, affording them tools to manage data through a single platform and removing the need to reformat data every time it needs to be moved.

Automated data management, like tiered storage, should be utilized by both potential CSPs and agencies alike as it gives them the power to do more work at reduced costs, all while managing disparate systems through a single pane of glass. At a non-technical level, this system frees up human resources who would otherwise be bogged down doing the job that a single IT manager is capable of completing given the right data management tools.

Industry must work together with agency partners so that no matter how government decides to facilitate the sharing of information down the road, they will have the tools to work together in the future.

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