News Feature | September 23, 2014

Government Agencies Want To Double Cloud Use, Yet Still Fearful Of Risks

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Government Agencies Increasing Cloud Usage But Fearful

Agencies want to double their cloud use — across infrastructure, platforms, and applications. And pressure to migrate to the cloud is certainly growing because of its potential benefits like improved agility, greater collaboration, and lack of IT complexity.  However, 89 percent of federal IT professionals still feel some migration apprehension because of concerns regarding data stewardship and management. In fact, 43 percent likened it to giving their son the keys to their new convertible.

A new report by MeriTalk, underwritten by NetApp and Arrow, examines how federal agencies are dealing with the cloud control challenge. The “Cloud Control: Moving to the Comfort Zone” report examines data stewardship barriers and progress toward enterprise-wide governance, cloud deployment growth projections, and how federal agencies are working with their cloud service providers to manage the change.

Data stewardship programs can help. While only 44 percent of agencies have “mature” data governance practices in the cloud, 56 percent are currently in the process of implementing data stewardship or a more formal data governance program for their cloud services or vendors. Importantly, those who are actively improving these programs are more likely to be comfortable turning over their IT services to cloud solutions providers (53 percent), than those who are not (32 percent).

Fifty-five percent of federal IT professionals say that cloud makes data management/stewardship easier, pointing to benefits like easier upgrades and configuration management, stronger virtual staff support, faster data access, and system monitoring as key benefits. Yet federal agencies still have a long road to travel to achieve data governance policies that are complete and comfortable. Many lack key elements, with 61 percent of respondents noting that their agencies do not have quality, documented metadata.  Fifty-two percent lack well-understood data integration, 50 percent have not defined/identified data owners, and 49 percent do not have known systems of record.

Agencies also tend to face a number of obstacles associated with managing cloud services and vendors, citing remediation for data exceptions, data integration, and collaboration/interoperability as their top challenges. And even though 54 percent of respondents state that security is their top concern, four out of five feel that the security offered by their cloud vendors is insufficient, and only a third of federal agencies met their June 5 deadline to ensure their cloud solution met FedRAMP security criteria.

“The benefits cloud offers are immense, but with the introduction of new hybrid cloud architectures, data stewardship becomes even more complex, as data must be managed and accessed across any cloud. Federal agencies must establish enterprise-wide governance practices, while deploying solutions that streamline data mobility and stewardship across cloud models.  Cloud consumers must develop data management processes and role-based control mechanisms to ensure success,” said Kirk Kern, chief technology officer, NetApp U.S. Public Sector.

Indeed, nearly nine out of ten (89 percent) agencies have taken steps to manage trust with their cloud vendors, including keeping security functions on-premise (42 percent); requiring certification of security measures taken (41 percent); and requiring that data resides on dedicated server, storage, and network infrastructure (39 percent). Additionally, those who use or plan to use a cloud brokerage service are significantly more comfortable turning their agency’s IT services and applications over to cloud providers (62 percent) than those who do not (32 percent).

“Federal end users are looking to the cloud for options that are faster, safer, and a better value than traditional IT,” said Dee Dee Lear, vice president, cloud and business development, Arrow ECS.  “To get more comfortable with the transition, agencies should seek out partners that offer best of breed IT services and focus on government data security for a proven path to cloud success.”

“Cloud Control:  Moving to the Comfort Zone” is based on an online survey conducted in June 2014 of 153 Federal IT professionals who have implemented cloud computing as part of their IT strategy.  The report has a margin error of ±7.89 at a 95% confidence level.  To download the full study, visit