Federal Agencies Struggle To Meet Cloud Mandate

GAO report finds agencies face challenges planning cloud migration, closing down legacy systems.

Patience Wait, Contributor

July 13, 2012

2 Min Read

Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progres

Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progress

Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progress (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Federal agencies need to do a better job of planning their transitions to cloud computing and unplugging legacy systems as the changeover is made, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO examined cloud adoption at seven federal agencies: the departments of Agriculture; Health and Human Services; Homeland Security, State, and Treasury; as well as the General Services Administration and the Small Business Administration.

The agencies showed progress complying with the Office of Management and Budget's "cloud-first" policy, which is one part of OMB's 25-point IT management reform plan issued in December 2010. Under that policy, each of the seven agencies had a deadline of moving three IT services or applications to the cloud by the end of June. Five agencies met the deadline, and the other two--the USDA and the SBA--expect to satisfy the requirement by the end of this year.

[ Read about how a potential federal IT boondoggle became a much-needed data storage center for the NGA. See How Not To Plan A Data Center. ]

But there were other gaps in compliance as well. Of 20 cloud migration plans submitted to OMB, only one was complete. According to the GAO, 11 plans didn't include performance goals and seven lacked cost estimates.

One of the biggest challenges for agencies seems to be how to retire legacy platforms when they move an existing application to the cloud. Among 14 such projects, none specified how legacy systems would be retired.

The agencies identified hurdles to realizing the full benefits of cloud computing, including ongoing concerns with security, certifying and accrediting vendors, cultural barriers, data portability and interoperability, and organizational know-how.

Another issue has been procuring on-demand services. Ken Ammon, chief security officer for Xceedium, a company that partners with Amazon Web Services to provide network security for cloud environments, said that's part of the learning curve. "The initial struggles have been around needing a complete change in the contracting paradigm," he said.

Big data places heavy demands on storage infrastructure. In the new, all-digital Big Storage issue of InformationWeek Government, find out how federal agencies must adapt their architectures and policies to optimize it all. Also, we explain why tape storage continues to survive and thrive.

About the Author(s)

Patience Wait


Washington-based Patience Wait contributes articles about government IT to InformationWeek.

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