As a continuation of my previous publication “Cloud Data Centers are for you.” I wanted to take a moment to outline what I believe the the cloud road map holds for the future of IT. Many of my colleagues reference the “Cloud Bubble” as an era that is coming to end and has toppled off. Some have mentioned that that cloud adoption has slowed down in the federal space, others point to the reliability of storing sensitive data in the cloud, others are concerned with what provider to entrust with their systems, and others make the interesting point that we are not ready for cloud solutions just yet. All these points are valid and you will see thousands of articles speaking in negative tone regarding the direction of the cloud, but I look at it from another point of view which may give all of you a different perspective of the path cloud is taking.
Let us begin by addressing the First Point, “The Federal Market has slowed cloud adoption”. The statement is bold and for the most part there are some substantial facts out there which could lead to this conclusion but following the money and trends you will see that this is far from the truth. The White House instituted a Cloud First Policy requiring all agencies to look for alternative solutions in the cloud. Between the time that this was instituted and now, the government in totality has only moved about 4% of its systems into the cloud. Ideally forecasters and speculators envisioned at least a 5 to 8 % adoption rate by now but like anything else government agencies are on the hook to be precautious about moving systems and data securely while they learn to adopt new technologies. Based on the rate of growth you can image the amount of work that needs to occur in order for Agencies to increase their adoption and adhere to the government mandate. Agencies across the board have increased their IT Cloud budgets from 8% to 12% between 2014 to 2015 and it is anticipated that IT budgets could be lending more than 20% of their budget to cloud solutions in the upcoming years. You can expect by 2020 more than 35% of government systems being housed in the cloud. Looking ahead you can start to see the stage being set for what will be the future of Government Cloud solutions.
As Office of Management and Budget (OMB) continues to enforce and push agencies to adhere to the Cloud First Policy you start to see the vast majority of Agencies preparing to stage and rollout hundreds of applications into different Cloud Spaces. This is largely related to the framework that the government has laid out by establishing regulations and standards for cloud deployments. FedRamp, OMB, NIST and the new AWS Private Cloud offering CS2S outline how government systems will be managed and set the foundation that other agencies need in order to start moving their systems into the cloud. This is the major take away that the industry fails to see, Government is not ready for 100% cloud, they are slowly preparing their workforce, preparing systems and reviewing options in order to fully create a roadmap for cloud migrations. Early adopters will tell you that not having a full understanding of cloud and the solutions result in poor implementations and cost increases rather than savings. So is there a slow down, yes, but the slowdown has a lot to do with preparation needed for the massive ramp up over the next 5 years.
The next two points are arguably the most valuable points of any concern that can be made about the direction of the cloud. Choosing the right vendor is always the most difficult decision to make. To choose the wrong vendor could ultimately force you down the path of a solution such as Helion Public Cloud from HP that was discontinued. As you can imagine HP is a large enough competitor that commonly wouldn’t be expected to discontinue services in a space that displays such great potential for profitability. The truth is there is no science to picking a vendor with longevity it's more about picking a vendor with the credentials and investment to withstand the transforming industry. Given this truth, I see the following vendors as the key cloud providers for the next 5 years:
Amazon Web Services
Google Cloud Platform
These five vendors here have distinguished themselves in many ways in the cloud space, not to mention that all the vendors have begun or have a full FedRamp accreditations. Each of these vendors also holds a strong footprint in the government space which also gives them more sustainability. Finally with the exception of AWS each one of these vendors has a component/product that is already inherently in the government space, giving them a direct path to offering services that can be cloud driven and government focused.
The other major consideration required when dealing with cloud vendors is their agility with which services may be added to their platform. By services I simply mean augmenting their capabilities, as customers require more capabilities to secure and manage their cloud environments. In that particular space you are seeing AWS and Azure quickly produce and augment services to meet Federal needs as well as improve and secure already existing services in an agile fashion.
One of those services we are seeing a stronger need for is data encryption in the cloud. I will save the discussion over Cloud based Encryption services versus Traditional Data-Center Encryption Services for another day but directly to the point you will see that vendors have provided above average industry encryption standards in many of their cloud solutions. These solutions in the majority of cases supercede those which commercial and government customers provide within traditional data centers. In some cases the technology has excelled to the point that new security standards are being developed based on gaps that exist only in the cloud. As a result we are seeing better standards for cloud based encryption which are leading to better security controls around overall solutions. This simply means that encryption in the cloud is more than sufficient for the vast majority of customer solutions. This also means that a new trend is starting in the world of IT which will require the Security Community to reform, adapt, reinvent and reapply what we have in the security field today.
As a result of all these changes you can see that much of the work that has been done in the cloud space has been preparation for the future of cloud solutions. From my point of view, the industry has had to adjust and understand what the impact will be for technologies that have evolved into the would be future of an ever changing industry. Pioneers like NetFlix have shown us what cloud-based systems are capable of doing and government agencies have set the standards for acceptable technologies and deployments that are considered ideal for use. This suggests to me that the industry is now expeditiously continuing its march toward cloud solutions with steps of preparation. So ultimately, yes we are cloud ready and yes we as an industry will see an evolution in cloud technologies over the course of the next 5 years.