Migration, Integration Top Challenges in Government Cloud Deployments

According to a cloud report, when state and local governments evaluate and plan entirely new IT services, 30 percent would be considered for either partial or total delivery via the cloud.

by / March 19, 2015
According to a recent survey, 53 percent of state and local government respondents are using cloud computing for storage, and cloud implementation becomes easier with experience. Gil C / Shutterstock.com

When it comes to cloud deployments in state and local government, migration and integration are cited as top challenges, according to a study by CDWG.

Released in late February, Cloud 401: Navigating Advanced Topics in Cloud Computing surveyed more than 1,200 IT professionals with direct involvement in their organization’s cloud strategy to determine their successes, challenges and outlook for the future of cloud. A breakdown of state and local government data found that 56.3 of respondents believe that migration and integration with other resources are the top government cloud deployment challenges. 

“I think the upfront migration piece is based on good planning, good partners and good project management to make sure it’s done well,” said Massachusetts CIO Bill Oates, whose state recently implemented a successful cloud-based HIE solution and has several other cloud deployments under way.

“It’s not just flipping a switch, particularly when you’re looking at the SaaS [software-as-a-service] side of things," Oates added. "And integration continues to be a challenge as you try to tie all these pieces together for your enterprise and try to bring a common base to your customer, who may be accessing solutions that are in the cloud and others that are not yet. The integration and interface side of cloud is a challenge, but will more and more become a part of the IT infrastructure going forward.”

San Francisco CIO Miguel Gamino said the biggest challenges for his city depend on what they are attempting to do. 

“Consuming a cloud-based SaaS solution has one set of challenges – you have the classic adoption, change management and migration types of challenges,” he said. “But if you’re talking about applying a cloud architecture to how you maintain and manage or deliver your infrastructure, it’s a different set of challenges. How do we repurpose existing assets into a cloud-consumable architecture, or do we have to dispose of or ‘forklift’ our existing architecture?”

San Francisco is in the midst of an Office 365 rollout and is also currently building its own internal hybrid cloud solution architecture. 

“What we’re trying to do is put one pane of glass in front of multiple sets of assets from different legacy systems,” said Gamino. “And we’re trying to make the service experience consistent across those multiple platforms.”

Thirty-one percent of state and local government respondents to the CDW study identified security and the single largest source of problems with cloud solutions.

“There are cloud providers that step up to the plate and can provide the level of security necessary to make us all comfortable with implementing these solutions, and there are likely others that aren’t as confident,” said Oates. “If you’re going to do this, security needs to be of the highest importance, and your selection of product, partner and migration plans needs to be solid."

But the onus is on IT organizations to understand the importance of those things, he added, and make sure IT leaders are planning it well. "The concern about security is warranted," Oates said. "But at the same time, we’re seeing that many cloud providers are providing levels of security that organizations like ours just wouldn’t be able to deliver on our own.”

According to the survey, the majority of state and local government respondents are using cloud computing for storage (53 percent), while the most common buyer of cloud services (aside from the IT organization) is HR. The survey also found that cloud implementation becomes easier with experience. State and local government respondents reported that their initial cloud implementation took an average of 15 weeks to complete, while subsequent implementations took only 11 weeks, on average.

Looking forward, state and local government respondents said as they evaluate and plan entirely new IT services, 30 percent of those new services would be considered for either partial or total delivery via the cloud. 

“Cloud is very prominent for us,” Oates said. “We look at it as part of the renovation of our overall IT infrastructure, so we expect that we’ll have more and more cloud moving forward. Most of our experiences have been positive, and I think a lot of that is based on good planning, good selection of partners, proper focus on contracts and terms and conditions, and security. Cloud doesn’t solve all issues, but our experience has generally been good.”

Meanwhile, Gamino said he cautions that “cloud” as a term is often used too generally today, which can make studies such as this less useful. 

“There are so many nuances and specifics -- it could be two entirely different technologies that could still be called ‘cloud,’” he said. “Cloud has become too general of a term to analyze it accurately this way.”

The broadly focused CDWG study also found that: 

  • More organizations are delivering the cloud services that they perceive as the easiest to transition – storage, email and Web hosting lead the pack, while fewer organizations deploy enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management/marketing services.
  • IT decision-makers have mixed feelings about the actual vs. perceived benefits of cloud computing, with flexibility, ease of administration and security having the biggest disparity.
  • IT executives rate reliability the most important attribute for a cloud vendor, but 76 percent of organizations still say at least one cloud vendor has failed to meet their service level agreements.
  • Security remains the primary barrier to moving more services to the cloud; however, organizations still consider delivering approximately one in three new IT services via the cloud.
Justine Brown Contributing Writer