By Megan Williams, contributing writer
While migration to cloud platforms presents unique challenges for VARs working with federal agencies, it also offers business opportunities in addressing issues unique to the government sphere.
What opportunities does federal migration to cloud platforms provide for you as an IT reseller? Quite a few. Federal agencies have a long road ahead of them in their migration to cloud computing. Even after the decision to migrate is made, uncertainty looms about the best way to approach the migration for government agencies.
Challenges With Migration
As far back as 2012, the Government Accountability Office was calling for better planning of cloud migration procedures. The implementation (across seven agencies) brought the following common challenges to light.
- Meeting Federal Security Requirements
- Obtaining guidance
- Acquiring knowledge and expertise
- Certifying and accrediting vendors
- Ensuring data portability and interoperability
- Overcoming cultural barriers
- Procuring services on a consumption (on-demand) basis
A recent interview with EMC Federal’s Kyle Keller (business director) showed similar issues two years later, though he also expressed concern over exit strategies. “While nearly all the focus of leveraging cloud is focused on how to start using it, very little consideration is given to having an exit strategy,” Keller says. “What if the level of service experienced is not what is defined in availability agreements or (if present) service level agreements? How could we bring an application back to the mission and ensure the least disruption possible? For all of the consideration for how to leverage cloud, closer consideration should review the possibility of exit.”
A Place For Vendors
While some federal agencies are already well under way in their transition, many haven’t yet begun. Sometimes, this is because they simply do not have the necessary staff to pull off a successful migration to a cloud platform. This presents an enormous opportunity for solutions providers. In 2007, Texas called in outside help to consolidate their data centers and move some applications to the cloud. The move turned out to be a success for the state and a potential learning point for federal agencies, especially with a June 2014 deadline looming for Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) compliance requirements.
More Lessons From The State Level: BYOD and Establishing Trust
As the public becomes more concerned about the safety of their information, vendors who handle public information and systems will have to be doubly attentive to the standards they put in place. A class action suit raised against Google earlier this year highlighted the risks inherent for vendors who work with government agency cloud systems, especially those who rely heavily on advertising revenue and monetizing user information. Still, there are safety measures you and your organization can take to protect yourself and establish trust with your clients early on, including:
- Incorporating clauses that prohibit unauthorized data use into contracts
- Measuring and reporting of efficacy of information security programs
- Including contractual language that specifically addresses BYOD and telework policies
If vendors keep an eye on developments in federal cloud use and policy, they are likely to find new and growing opportunities in the government sector.