Last month my colleague Susie Adams outlined the cost savings benefits of virtualization – an IT strategy that many government organizations have already embraced. In fact, 77 percent of U.S. state and local governments have adopted server virtualization at some level, and 63 percent of all U.S. government workloads are expected to be virtualized by 2015. But as Susie pointed out, virtualization is just the first stop on the path to true cost savings, and the most efficient, cost-effective destination for most government agencies will be a hybrid (public/private) cloud environment.
If the first stop is virtualization, the next stop is private cloud. Private clouds empower governments to become application-centric rather than infrastructure-centric, and the function of IT is to provide applications in a consistently reliable environment. They allow IT leaders to focus on how to best use technology to meet their organization’s mission, and reduce the time and money spent on maintenance and management. But to extend those benefits even further, many IT leaders are embracing the public cloud for the right workloads, while maintaining other applications on premise.
Public clouds eliminate maintenance and management costs associated with certain applications because they are hosted by a third-party. Government organizations pay a hosting partner only for the computing resources they use, as they use them. Embracing the public cloud for certain applications results in a hybrid cloud approach, empowering agencies to move applications and data from on-premise to the public cloud while maintaining service levels, which offers a more flexible, more scalable, more cost-efficient model than private cloud alone. But which workloads make sense in a public cloud?
Many governments are starting with mission-critical, yet slightly less sensitive applications like email and collaboration. In these deployments, governments not only reap the cost savings benefits of cloud, but also the incredible information-sharing and collaboration advantages. Beyond email, we’re seeing IT leaders embrace the public cloud’s scalability for citizen services, especially those that experience spikes in activity at certain times of year (taxes, elections). Governments are also looking to cloud for managing disaster response scenarios, especially in instances where it’s beneficial to store information in datacenters located far away from a vulnerable area. We’re also seeing public sector cloud implementations around citizen-facing websites, 311 systems, event management portals, and big data initiatives that require significant computing resources for a single piece of analysis, just to name a few.
Most of the government IT leaders I chat with aren’t ready to put all of their data in a public cloud, due to the fact that governments are responsible for protecting some of the most sensitive data in the world. With the clear understanding that data sovereignty is an important issue, most government leaders also see the enormous cost and efficiency benefits that public cloud solutions offer. So the hybrid cloud is the new reality, and as agencies begin building their hybrid architectures, interoperability is the most critical consideration. Siloed point solutions that aren’t interoperable aren’t going to provide long-term value. So we encourage governments to think five to ten years down the road, laying the groundwork for hybrid cloud environments that seamlessly integrate applications and data, regardless of where they are hosted. Hybrid is the future, and the future is now.