Making government lean with virtualization and private cloud

12 February 2013 | Susie Adams, CTO, Microsoft Federal

Last year, the Obama administration unveiled its Digital Government Strategy, designed to improve access to government data, procure applications in secure and cost-effective ways, and unlock the power of open data to spur innovation across the United States.  It’s a vision of government that aims to transform citizen service delivery, empower government information workers to be more productive, and take advantage of a host of new applications and devices that citizens increasingly use in their day-to-day lives.  The good news is that emerging technologies are available to drive this revolution – and virtualization and private cloud options are a great place for government agencies to start.

Virtualization means creating virtual versions of computing resources – whether it’s a server, a desktop, an application, a network, or an operating system.  Virtualization enables government IT leaders to squeeze more computing power out of their existing IT assets, pay for those resources more efficiently, and gain more control over how those resources are allocated across their agencies.  The federal government expects to realize $23.6 billion in virtualization cost savings by 2015, and virtualization was responsible for a 19% decrease in federal IT spending in 2011.  It’s an essential first step in achieving Digital Government Strategy goals around data center consolidation, cost savings, and providing broader access to applications from any location and any approved device.

But virtualization is also the first step in establishing a private cloud infrastructure, which extends these benefits even further.  Virtualized resources are the tactical building blocks of the cloud, but they still need to be managed and maintained, and most agencies employing virtualization strategies are still paying for more hardware and software capability than they need.  A private cloud architecture optimizes an agency’s entire infrastructure, delivering improved cost-effectiveness through higher workload density and more efficient resource deployment.  Government agencies can take a metered approach to computing, paying only for what they use, as they use it, all within a secure infrastructure dedicated solely to that individual organization.

A private cloud enables IT leaders to focus on their applications, and their missions, rather than their infrastructure.  Apps can be accessed using a self-service model, and the elastic cloud environment is able to respond to peaks and valleys in demand.  Management is not only more cost-effective, it’s also more efficient, with IT leaders gaining greater insight into how much it costs to run particular workloads. Today’s private cloud management technologies can easily support heterogeneous IT environments, enabling agency personnel to focus on mission goals, and citizen service delivery, rather than IT compatibility.  On the productivity front, the private cloud delivers the same benefits as the public cloud, from cross-agency collaboration and information-sharing to improved mobile access to applications and files.

The good news is that agencies that have already made investments in virtualization technologies are well on their way to achieving the cost savings and efficiency benefits of a private cloud infrastructure.  For agencies looking to take the next step, we encourage you to do your homework, compare prices, and evaluate the capabilities you already own.  Virtualization is the first step towards the private cloud, which is key to achieving a more responsive, more efficient, and more cost-effective government.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Susie Adams
CTO, Microsoft Federal