Cloud adoption by government customers isn“™t an all-or-nothing proposition, says Susie Adams, chief technology officer for Microsoft Federal‘s Civilian business. “We encourage agencies to take baby steps and really do a cost benefit analysis,“ she says, adding, “In some instances, it may not be a wise business decision to move a particular workload to the cloud.“ Those reasons may include an already sizable investment in server and data center infrastructure, for which a move to the cloud may not generate significant cost savings.
For Adams, cloud adoption comes down to choice. “We want to make sure that, regardless of where our customers are in the federal space or in the maturity of a particular workload, they have choice in cloud offerings “¦ they have the ability to have some users run on premise and others run in the cloud,“ she says.
Recovery.gov is an example of this approach. It was built on SharePoint, SQL server reporting services, and run on the Windows platform. Meanwhile, it lives in the Amazon cloud. “All of that is completely interoperable “¦ they have no issues running it another cloud vendor“™s platform,“ says Adams, adding, “We really see this as how agencies will start to adopt the cloud.“
On the industry side, hybrid models will continue to emerge as viable cloud offerings. Microsoft is among those filling the need. “Microsoft has a dedicated model where you can buy Exchange online, on a dedicated rack, and server with a dedicated network, back to the government“™s site,“ says Adams. That“™s slightly different than Google“™s model, which is simply multi-tenant, or Terramark“™s model of posting Exchange for customers under the proviso that the latter provide the software.
Cloud standards: Definitions
In the midst of varying hybrid models, the definition of cloud computing remains influx. Adams has a few ideas of where that definition is headed. “In the purist“™s sense, today most people thinking of cloud computing as multi-tenant,“ says Adams. “Over the next few years,“ she adds, “that definition might evolve to where data will operate in both a multi-tenant and dedicated mode.“ Specifically, Adams envisions a scenario in which agencies adopt cloud computing for core enterprise capabilities “” firstly, mail in the collaboration stack “” as well as public-facing websites that further Gov 2.0 efforts.
Cloud: Rate of agency adoption
Meanwhile, cloud adoption by agency will vary. Among the various agencies, Adams sees the widest adoption ahead in the civilian space, particularly by smaller agencies. “I think when you weigh the risk versus the benefit for some of these agencies “” less than a couple thousand users “” the benefits [of the cloud] are enormous,“ says Adams. Larger agencies, within the civilian space, are more interested in a dedicated cloud model, she adds, mainly because their existing infrastructure is well-connected, they have single sign-on capabilities, and they want to ensure their existing platform into the cloud will reap cost-saving benefits.
Cloud: What“™s ahead
Going forward, we“™ll see more mainstream server products with counterparts that live in the cloud, says Adams. “You will start to see us fill out that technology,“ she adds. Microsoft already has relationship management software available in the cloud. Systems Center will be the next product that moves to the cloud. Also, the company is introducing office web applications of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. In other developments, Azure is now equipped with the Windows operating system, as well as the first versions of SQL Azure and “Dallas,“ which allows users, in the spirit of Data.gov, to host their data on the site. It includes an application program interface for developers to access such data quickly and easily.
Microsoft is also fashioning cloud technology to be accessible from any device. “As opposed to everything being proprietary, the device isn“™t going to matter anymore,“ says Adams. “You should be able to access data and applications from the device of your choice “” devices, over the next three years, will be where a lot of this innovation takes place.“
A big source of development will be the NUI (national user interface) to access data stored in the cloud, whether on a public, private, or hybrid cloud. “I think all three will exist “¦ it will all be about the particular workload, the sensitivity of the data, the agencies“™ comfort with security “” privacy and trust in the vendor that is providing that service “” as well as the cost benefit analysis of where that particular agency is today,“ says Adams.
And through that change, one thing will remain constant. “The way we work today has dramatically changed and will more so into the future,” says Adams. “It“™s an exciting and great time to be in IT.“
UP CLOSE: Microsoft Federal CTO Susie Adams
Favorite websites: InformationWeek Government (“They seem to be up to speed on the latest and greatest,“ says Adams.) Also, GovLoop (“Not my favorite but it“™s definitely interesting“) and FedScoop.
What she“™s reading: John Grisham“™s Ford County
Personal: Adams played college basketball for George Mason University. “I won“™t say that I play a lot of basketball anymore but I do love to swim, bike, and run on the beach.“