Meeting in the middle and weighing the risk about cloud

Listen to the second part of our interview with Susie Adams.

On Monday, FCB talked with Susie Adams, CTO for Microsoft’s Federal business.

We left off discussing procurement pitfalls and getting over that legacy mindset.

We begin our second segment by asking whether this is a problem that can be solved by federal government changing, the private sector changing — or having the two meet in the middle.

Susie Adams: What I think is going to happen is we’re going to meet in the middle. I think it’s really all about weighing the risk. How much risk are they willing to assume for the benefits that they’ll gain from moving to the cloud — and that risk versus benefit analysis.

I think that’s the big challenge right now for federal agencies that are looking to take advantage of cloud services. Trying to figure out where that is on the pendulum.

What things do I need that cloud providers aren’t doing today?

For example, maybe it’s FISMA certifications. What is that list of things that we traditionally wouldn’t provide to a commercial customer, for example? What do we need to do for a government agency so that it makes sense to them now to assume that level of risk to see the benefits that they would get — or receive those benefits that they get from the cloud?

Fed Cloud Blog: Are there any unexpected pitfalls or aspects of the cloud that are negative?

SA: Absolutely. Not every workload is a good candidate for cloud computing.

For example, I know that many agencies today have legacy applications that, what they’re hoping to do, is just decrease their capital expenditures and hopefully have lower operating expenses, as well. In many cases, moving certain workloads to the cloud — maybe it is just a legacy system — they virtualize it and move it to the cloud [and] they might find out that . . . maybe the cost of running the infrastructure is actually less than the operating expenses that they might incur to keep that same legacy infrastructure running and available in the cloud.

When you move to the cloud, there’s a number of different expenses and it’s not an immediate gain.

Let’s take email for example. [For] many agencies today, that seems to be the sweet spot for the cloud. They’re looking to take email and move that . . . either in a multi-tenant or dedicated environment, and the reason they’re looking to do this is they want to decrease their capital expenditures [and other reasons].

A lot of times what we’ve seen is, depending on the state of their existing email system, their costs might actually jump up the first couple of years because of migration costs, putting good archival and retention processes in place, e-discovery — all things that, today, they thought about but maybe hadn’t implemented — and now that they’re moving to the cloud, they want to make sure they implement.

Over time, though, I think they’ll definitely realize lower operating costs.

FCB: When talking to some people in the federal sphere, we find they say — oh we love the cloud, we’re getting ready to move everything into the cloud — and you can’t do that. What are your thoughts on that?

SA: [Cloud] isn’t going to solve everybody’s problems.

We fundamentally believe that not all workloads will live in the cloud probably ever. It’s not going to become a green-screen world. It’s going to be a hybrid world where you’re going to have workloads that live inside your data centers, workloads that live in service providers in a multi-tenant fashion . . . and you’re going to have private clouds that perhaps host internal systems run by a systems integrator . . . and they will all operate and it will be seamless to the end user.

It’s almost like saying, if you think back 10 years, “I’m going to XML it and enable everything I have”.

But [cloud] does have a lot of promise and I think the workloads that we’re seeing that are the most attractive to move to the cloud, especially with the new administration’s goals of being very open and transparent, are all the public data sets that are out there. is a great example of this. . . . That’s a big challenge for the federal government today. [The idea of] how do we do this in a cost-effective manner? I think the cloud shows a lot of promise there.

The other is with mission-critical collaboration applications. . . . I think those are probably the workloads that are going to be most attractive and that will offer the most value for federal agencies as they look at the cloud.

Coming soon . . . a conversation with Bruce Hart, COO of Terremark’s Government Group and former deputy director of the CIA; a chat with Dave Chen of Accenture; and Habib Nasibdar, chair of the ACT-IAC, tells us more about their cloud Shared Interest Group.

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