How the Pandemic Impacted the Government’s Cloud Migration Plans

I really liked this piece by my SolarWinds® associate Brandon Shopp discussing how agencies remain firm believers in hybrid environments, but they face several obstacles.

“Cloud-first” has been a government imperative for many years, but the pandemic usurped this strategy, making “cloud-now” a priority. The results have been transformational.

The cloud made wide-scale government telework possible, but it’s also given agencies the opportunity to test drive new cloud applications and experience the scalability and security benefits first-hand. From cloud-powered financial assistance platforms to remote learning management systems for K-12 public schools, public sector organizations stood up transformative solutions in challenging conditions.

Although COVID-19 accelerated cloud adoption, there are still many situations where a private cloud is required—hence the popularity of hybrid IT environments. But these can be hard to manage at scale and require a specific skillset that’s not always easy to find.

What’s holding deployment up? While federal, state, and local agencies remain firm believers in hybrid environments, they face several obstacles. For instance, ensuring a high-performing infrastructure is complicated. Traditional monitoring technologies may not work across these heterogeneous ecosystems. In certain situations, the speed at which some cloud applications were rolled out may also have resulted in unresolved security and compliance issues.

But what can agencies do to combat these concerns? Here are four recommendations to optimize public sector hybrid cloud environments.

  1. Take a New Approach to Tooling.

Not all monitoring technologies are created equal. Many are either designed for on-premises data centers or the cloud, not both.

This area is ripe for optimization. Nobody has the time or skill to scrutinize multiple monitoring systems—exposing the organization to visibility and potential security gaps. IT leaders must prioritize a plan to control the complexities of monitoring hybrid environments with an integrated, holistic view of overall health, performance, and security across the network, databases, and applications.

  1. Optimize the Hybrid Network.

With the case made for further investment in cloud services, network connectivity and performance will be key factors in ensuring the delivery of high-quality, mission-critical services. This means addressing network latency and any other issues before they impact end users. Existing approaches to network performance monitoring may need to be expanded to handle increased cloud traffic and help prevent outages.

Software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technologies also play a role in the future of hybrid. SD-WAN can help simplify network management tasks by intelligently routing traffic around congestion.

  1. Get a Handle on Identity and Access Control.

Monitoring who has access to what is a standard security practice. But when employees, contractors, and citizens interact with data from disparate sources—in the cloud and on-premises—things get much more complicated.

In a rush to fill the security holes created by the “cloud-now” imperative, access controls such as multifactor authentication will likely replace passwords as the gold standard for digital access.

Other security practices like zero-trust frameworks, network segmentation, and adhering to the cloud provider’s security best practices can help secure high-value assets wherever they reside in the hybrid environment.

  1. Shift Skills and Mindsets.

The skills involved in managing a hybrid cloud environment are different than those needed for on-premises infrastructure. The data center IT teams know has been abstracted away. Technology can help, but agencies must also identify and nurture the right skills needed to support a hybrid cloud strategy in areas such as security and application performance monitoring.

The pandemic has made the case for IT modernization and accelerated cloud adoption, but for these services to be truly used by government personnel and citizens alike, they must be high-performing, easily accessible, and secure. Only with these pillars in place will the cloud show its true value and help make the case for further investment and activate new use cases for the future.

Find the full article on NextGov.

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