When is a cloud business solution right for your agency?

​This week, Microsoft Dynamics announced the availability of new cloud-based business solutions built specifically for federal government agencies. These solutions are delivered through a FISMA-compliant, federal-only infrastructure environment hosted by Microsoft partner Layered Tech. The solutions provide agencies with a private and secured cloud hosting environment built specifically to deploy mission critical solutions, enabling federal agencies to collaborate, manage data, improve processes, and access actionable business intelligence, while taking advantage of the flexibility, security, performance and cost savings of a cloud delivery model. To learn more, download the solution dataasheet.

The FutureFed blog team had the opportunity to catch up with Susie Adams, Microsoft’s Federal Chief Technology Advisor, to help give some perspective to this announcement and answer a few questions on cloud offerings for federal agencies.

What is unique about these news business solutions for federal government?

One of the things we found through our Office 365 collaboration technologies is there are many federal agencies interested in a dedicated cloud-based solution. Microsoft Dynamics cloud-based solutions for federal government offer just that. The cloud gives agencies the benefits and economies-of-scale of the cloud, in a dedicated environment, so it is physically separated from other customers. We found that right now in the business applications space, from a competitive perspective, there is no one else offering a solution that has dedicated servers and storage. Most offer a multi-tenant public cloud or government community cloud, not a dedicated solution. This gives our customers choice, which is how we strive to approach all cloud offerings at Microsoft. They can choose if they want a multi-tenant public cloud or a Microsoft Dynamics dedicated cloud option, to address all concerns. On top of the benefits of the cloud, federal agencies still receive a robust and flexible application platform that is easy to use, quick to deploy and integrated with other Microsoft products for security, collaboration, email, geospatial and cost efficiency. This is a unique offering, new to this market, and we are thrilled to provide this option to our customers.

When is a cloud-based business solution right for Federal agencies?

There is almost always some flavor of a cloud that is going to be a fit for a federal agency today. This could be a private cloud, public cloud, or a government community cloud. Agencies must base their decision on which cloud to use by assessing the sensitivity of the data the application it is managing as well as business factors associated with moving a solution to the cloud.  For example, if an agency has already made the capital expenditure required to self-host the solution the total cost of ownership savings might not be there for the agency in the short term. The initial perception of the lower cost of service (e.g., small upfront investment, end of maintenance contracts, etc.) and the need to off-load existing data center workloads are highly desirable.  The challenge may be however that the calculation of the TCO advantages may require longer-term ROI/TCO models to truly understand the savings that can be realized. The ability for cloud computing to shift the financial aspect of technology modernization from the capital budget to the operational budget may be the true longer-lasting impact of the cloud helping government organizations plan and acquire new technology modernization without the large capital outlays that were required in previous years. Before a decision is made, agencies should look at the sensitivity of the cloud application data being considered as well as the business justification to make the move to the cloud.  If the risk and business need is appropriate, then you can then make a risk-based decision on whether the business application is right for a private cloud, public cloud, multi-tenant cloud, or government cloud.

What are common organizational concerns that weigh in on the agency decision to move to the cloud?

Security, privacy, and control. All agencies must do their homework before moving to a cloud because not all clouds have the same security and privacy policies.   From a security perspective, the cloud provider should be open and transparent about their security, compliance and privacy policies and have well documented SLA’s and KPI’s to back them up.  What are the vendor’s privacy policies for the solutions you are evaluating and will they use your data for advertising?  Do they adhere to the Federal Government mandates and agency standards?  How secure is their data from external access and cyber-crime and how will the provider notify you if there is a breach? These questions are crucial to determining if the provider is the right choice for a federal agency.  The idea of moving technology resources ‘off-campus’, let alone into the cloud is an important decision and agencies must evaluate all aspects of the service and the data centers that run that service to feel comfortable with a move to the cloud.

Finally, FutureFed wanted to share what some of Microsoft’s partners are saying about the new business solutions and cloud services delivered by Layered Tech.

The Layered Tech environment provides agencies with Microsoft Dynamics solutions as a service built the way agencies want their environment configured. Leveraging their extensive expertise in the hosted Microsoft Dynamics space, and in the FISMA accreditation process, the government benefits by getting their environment delivered with their exact specifications to ensure business owners and CIO's get what they need. As a result, agencies can focus more of their attention on mission delivery through Microsoft Dynamics solutions and less on infrastructure engineering and support.”

- Sam Thepvongs, Director, Blackstone Technology Group

"The Microsoft Dynamics government cloud offering provides the opportunity to optimize "as-a-service" computing resources to quickly and cost-effectively deliver targeted solutions to support specific federal agency requirements. Being able to provide solutions like Accenture's Task Management Tool (TMT), a Microsoft Dynamics solution, "as-a-service" will reduce infrastructure, maintenance and support costs, while delivering a high level of security and regulatory compliance."

- Annette Rippert, Senior Executive, Accenture Federal Services

Susie Adams
CTO, Microsoft Federal