Four Factors Shaping the Federal Cloud Computing Market

Posted by Alexander Rossino on September 19, 2017

The swirl of executive orders, Office of Management and Budget policies, and legislative mandates that industry has seen over the last few years can obscure the real factors shaping agency investment in cloud computing. Policy “actions,” for lack of a better term, can help drive cloud adoption, but there are other factors as well that are also having a big impact. Here are four of those factors that in my opinion will continue to be critical to shaping the federal cloud computing market in the near-term.

Technology Modernization Funding: Developing efficient and workable funding mechanisms for buying cloud services as a utility continues to be a big challenge. Technology modernization funding proposed as part of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, which is currently under consideration by Congress, would allot the General Service Administration’s Technology Transfer Service (TTS) with $500M split evenly between FY 2018 and FY 2019 to fund cloud projects. Agencies would borrow against this funding for up front investments and pay it back over time to the TTS. Look for this legislation to be passed as an amendment attached to the FY 2018 NDAA.

Establishing Cloud Best Practices: Even understanding the basics of how to plan, mange, and contract for cloud capabilities is problematic for most agencies. To blaze a trail forward, the GSA launched the Cloud Center of Excellence in January 2017 to advise agencies on contracting and funding best practices to accelerate the migration of agency capabilities to the cloud. This effort has resulted in the release of a best practices guide called CASTLE (Cloud Acquisition Professionals Cloud Adoption Survival Tips, Lessons, and Experiences), which is available for public comment. Once it is finalized, CASTLE should provide answers that currently stop some cloud procurements in their tracks.

 Removing Security Obstacles: Concerns about the security of data in the cloud have largely disappeared in the wake of events like the hack of OMB a few years ago. Agencies now realize that they cannot possibly maintain cyber defenses strong enough to defeat many cyber attacks. They therefore need to leverage the capabilities built into commercial clouds. GSA’s FedRamp 2.0 certification program has also cut costs and slashed solution approval times to 3-4 months. Agencies continue to grapple with speeding ATOs for vendors and addressing Trusted Internet Connection latency issues, but a larger number of secure cloud solutions is now available than ever before.

Ensuring Solution Interoperability: Avoiding vendor lock-in is a big concern for agencies, meaning that they have so far avoided migrating many systems to the cloud because interoperability between cloud solutions just isn’t there. No one wants to turn agency enterprises into cloud versions of the Hotel California so the NIST Public Working Group on Federate Cloud and The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Intercloud Working Group are collaborating to develop standards that will enable cloud solution interoperability. Once implemented, these standards will remove vendor lock-in concerns and give agencies confidence they can move to the cloud with as little hassle as possible.

Once these innovations are in place expect agency cloud adoption to accelerate accordingly.