Government // Cloud computing
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5/21/2014
11:30 AM
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Cloud Migration: Harder Than It Looks

Federal IT leaders say moving email and human resources applications to the cloud is not easy but claim their efforts have been successful.

a "discovery" exercise on all the OIG networks and circuits at sites across the nation. This investigation included a physical inventory of all the hardware at OIG offices. "That helped out in determining any equipment that had reached end of life," said Brock Stevenson, the OIG's liaison to Microsoft.

As a result of the infrastructure cleanup, Stevenson said, the OIG was able to retire some legacy environments, such as an email security appliance and an email archiving system, and reap operational cost savings.

At DOL, the benefit of enterprise readiness was similar. "A good thing is that when you're moving to external services, that can help drive your internal standardization," Leaf said. "We had nine different email infrastructures that were all developed with different visions. It's like we had this house over decades where the individual occupants and owners all built out what they wanted. We actually had [sites] where people were buying parts for servers on eBay. Having an effort where you're going to get outside services is like having [a house] inspection -- it forces you to look at yourself and really start to standardize."

Leaf reminded IT managers that in moving to the cloud, they must retain clear oversight. "Delegation -- and that's what you're doing; you're delegating your authority of your IT services -- is not the same as abdication," she said. "The bottom line is when stuff is not working, it doesn't matter how many contracts you have out there, and it doesn't matter who wrote them. You are the IT services organization; you are the CIO or the office of the CIO. You are the one that [users] are going to come to."

Due diligence is key to oversight, she added. "Make sure you're managing the program like you would anything else."

Sharing experiences with other agencies that have migrated to the cloud or are planning a cloud move can make the experience less painful. The HHS OIG, in fact, is establishing a Microsoft Office 365 for Government federal users group.

"Our goal this summer is to set up a meeting to get as many in the federal community as possible and talk about our goals," Owens said. "We think if we speak with one voice to Microsoft, it will provide incredible value... we can share best-practices across the federal community to get the best value out of this investment. When we work with a vendor with one common voice, it's going to help them and it's going to help us."

NIST's cyber security framework gives critical-infrastructure operators a new tool to assess readiness. But will operators put this voluntary framework to work? Read the Protecting Critical Infrastructure issue of InformationWeek Government today.

Richard W. Walker is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C., area who has been covering issues and trends in government technology for more than 15 years. View Full Bio

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Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
5/28/2014 | 11:47:11 AM
Re: Moving to the cloud, if you can get there, ends customizations
Exactly.  The fear of killing off legacy systems, or users reluctant to use new systems negate many of the benefits of moving to the cloud in the first place.  Fear of outages, complexity and changing the nature of workers, especially those who have been using older systems for many years, not only hinder the adoption of these new services, but pose a risk for IT teams who are dealing with managing the migration of data to the newer services.  
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
5/22/2014 | 6:34:27 PM
Re: Moving to the cloud, if you can get there, ends customizations
You're right, Charlie. In addition: One of the big failures in federal IT investment management has been the lack of follow through to kill legacy systems, once their replacement(s) is up and running. I suspect that's in part because the old systems are so cobbled together, no one knows for sure what they'll lose by switiching over to the cloud (which gives IT managers more leverage to hold onto their unique systems.)

 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
5/21/2014 | 7:29:38 PM
Moving to the cloud, if you can get there, ends customizations
Owens of the Office of Inspector General at Health and Human Services hits the nail on the head. You can't begin to phase out legacy systems and reap the benefit of simplified, standard operations until you've discovered just how unstandard you've become. Every fiefdom knows what it wants, and what it wants is something different. If you can get to the cloud, moving there will end the constant process of customized systems.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
5/21/2014 | 5:07:04 PM
Spinup
When I used to edit product reviews at Network Computing, I discouraged reviewers from dinging products for installation and setup difficulties. Unless the effort was truly hellish, that was a very small part of the scoring -- for the simple reason that (for the most part) you do it only once. IT teams should live with a new model for a year or so, six months at minimum, to let memories of the spinup fade and a balanced picture emerge before rendering judgement.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
5/21/2014 | 1:03:27 PM
Value
Any cloud migration project can be challenging, but the benefits of moving to more modern and efficient systems can be enormous. 

I think that the biggest issue to deal with might be change management. That portion of a migraton can take the longest to complete, as that portion often goes on for many months or years afterward. Sometimes government can be slow to change, and as a result these things take a lot of time. 

But it is usually worth it. 
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