‘Same old approaches’ to cloud will not be part of strategy revamp

Nearly seven years after the Office of Management and Budget’s Cloud-First policy, federal agency chief information officers, industry providers and lawmakers are tired of talking about the promise of the cloud.

Dave Nelson, the CIO of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said too often he hears that agencies are stuck in the mud, they are risk averse and don’t want to move to the cloud.

“The role of the CIO in cloud migration has morphed considerably,” Nelson said at the ATARC Cloud Summit on June 13. “I think many in the cloud services organizations, the vendor community may have missed that shift in the way they continue to talk to CIOs.”

Nelson said NRC like many agencies have overcome the fear or initial resistance to moving applications and servers to the cloud, and now are going on all in.

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NRC put its email system in the cloud, recently completed the transition of the agency’s collaboration tools and is testing high performance computing activities to support mission decisions.

And it’s because of the experiences of CIOs like Nelson and many others around government that has prompted OMB to revamp the governmentwide cloud strategy.

“We are trying to find new ways to get people to move the cloud, but the problem is we are using the same old approaches. We have a lot of individual policies that are in these little tiny siloes that address one thing over here, and one thing over there. We haven’t really been looking at it holistically across government,” said Bill Hunt, a digital services expert at OMB. “We’ve been working hard for the last almost a year looking at [cloud examples] that are working across government. In the next few months, we are releasing the new federal cloud computing strategy, which we are tentatively calling Cloud Smart.”

Hunt said new strategy will highlight best practices across three main areas:

  • Security
  • Procurement
  • Workforce

“I also know that a lot of the concerns that you all have had in moving to the cloud are policy concerns, things that OMB has created that haven’t been updated or refreshed and make it a lot harder to move to the cloud,” he said. “That is something we are looking at too. This administration really believes in removing those burdensome barriers of policy that aren’t helping people get to these marketplace solutions that we all know and love already.”

OMB hasn’t updated the cloud first strategy since 2011 .

It has tried this “path clearing” before with only limited success. But the Trump administration made moving to the cloud and using these services a central theme for its IT modernization strategy, which called for updating the cloud-first policy.

At the same time, GSA is hosting a series of industry days around cloud to educate agencies and vendors alike on plans and opportunities.

The first one on June 27 with the Agriculture Department is to help move from the discovery phase to the operational phase of IT modernization under the centers of excellence initiative.

During the industry day, USDA and GSA will discuss the number, scope and strategies of their anticipated procurements under phase 2 of the CoE effort.

The second opportunity is June 28 and 29 is a reverse industry day where GSA and USDA will talk with vendors about their capabilities across the five CoE focus areas like cloud adoption and customer experience.

GSA also is hosting another reverse industry training day that is not related to the CoE initiative on cloud adoption on June 28.

Millisa Gary, GSA’s procurement/task and delivery order ombudsman, said this training session will give agencies a better understanding of how their actions impact the way vendors respond to cloud solicitations.

“Several agencies have done reverse industry training over the last few years, but those reverse industry training days have been agency specific. This time we are opening the doors to governmentwide attendance,” Gary said. “Anyone who is interested in learning about cloud adoption or cloud migration would want to attend this program.”

The day will include four sessions focused on everything from pitfalls and tips for cloud adoption to a case study on what life in the cloud looks like and what comes next after moving to the cloud.

Gary said over 220 federal employees already have registered.

Hunt said the new strategy as well as many of these other efforts is all about knowledge building so agencies can understand where they are and move to a future state.

“Agencies that are successful in this area are the ones that have done application rationalization. They really dug in and seen what they have got. Some agencies I’ve talked to went rack by rack and said what stays, what goes to cloud and what they will get rid of altogether,” he said. “The agencies that haven’t done that and not considered what they can move and what they can’t move are the ones that really seem to still be struggling.”

Hunt said agencies have to stop thinking about cloud as IT, but how cloud and technology can improve how they serve their missions.

OMB will build the new cloud strategy through a series of data collections and meetings with CIOs to figure out what has been successful.

Hunt said OMB will release the draft strategy for public comment and then will finalize it after receiving the feedback.

“We’ve really tried to address why we haven’t moved, why the agencies are just not getting to where we want them to go, where Congress wants them to go and where everyone universally agrees that we should be going,” he said. “We’ve really tried to look at the barriers agencies have been facing and try to account for those as much as we can through policy and fix existing policy where it has been a barrier.”