Cloud services are now fundamental to our lives. We store our photos and email files in the cloud, use social apps that run in the cloud, and even access health and financial records through the cloud. The cloud enables us to share our lives – and our information – with those who matter most. The facility and efficiency of this platform is what drives government to cloud models. Today, hybrid cloud models play an integral and growing role in the way the government stores data and shares information.
While it’s easy for an individual to purchase cloud storage, like an annual subscription to Dropbox or Google Drive, the federal government information technology (IT) staff have a more complicated undertaking.
The amount of data, legal complexity, and need for security are among the challenges the government faces when choosing a cloud provider.
For instance, nearly every adult American has some sort of data, financial, health, or other information, stored by the government – much of which is stored in or traverses a hybrid/cloud environment. And our intelligence agencies comb through billions of information and intelligence items stored and shared amongst analysts in a secure cloud.
Ensuring that data can be reviewed, shared, and accessed in a secure environment is one of the federal government’s main priorities and greatest challenges. In May 2023, the Cybersecurity subcommittee of the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee – a leader in federal government IT modernization efforts – held a hearing “Risky Business: Costly Inaction on Federal Legacy IT.” During the hearing, both Chair Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Ranking Member Gerry Connolly (D-VA) stressed that current IT infrastructure is outdated and “highly vulnerable” to cyberattacks from domestic and international threats. There is also a new bipartisan Modernization Subcommittee looking at how to make Congress more effective and efficient. It is clear by their collective efforts that the federal government is serious about modernizing and updating its legacy IT infrastructure to ensure the integrity of the data it holds.
However, modernizing government IT infrastructure works best when done in collaboration with industry experts who can provide the necessary technologies, hardware, and expertise to secure the massive amounts of data the government holds. In fact, this public-private partnership is already underway as requirements for IT procurement, development, and delivery have changed significantly over the decades.
Twenty-five years ago, a government department would build a server, including the mainframe, the wires, and circuits necessary to store information on site, on the premises of a building they own. Proprietary software, hardware architectures, acquisition timelines, budget, added complexity and time to this process so that, many times, the systems were outdated by the time they became operational. Now—as technology has evolved and more providers are available—the government is moving to an as a service (aaS) model.
As a service allows the government to streamline acquisition, use the most current technology, integrate with public clouds, and secure these systems behind government firewalls. The aaS solution enables government IT staff to utilize external experts and leverage the cloud to operate state-of-the-art systems both on and off premises.
Three factors have come together to fuel the growth of aaS consumption models for the government:
- Acquisition and procurement practices evolved to embrace cloud models and the General Services Administration (GSA) made changes to allow agencies to buy cloud services through the schedule contract.
- As a result, public cloud became more accessible. Government became accustomed to utilizing cloud infrastructure that they do not own or maintain.
- Traditional data center technology became more commoditized and corresponding operating software more mature and defined.
With these factors changing the federal procurement landscape, our government is now buying full-service storage IT capabilities, including personnel, system management, and technology, delivered by a single vendor.
AaS allows Peraton to provide government clients with the exact solutions to meet their needs. The customer provides the parameters required for storage, access, security, and speed, and Peraton delivers the appropriate technology solution.
In this era of tighter budgets and limited resources, using an aaS model enables government IT staff to better meet modernization, optimization, and mission support requirements. By working with industry experts who focus solely on secure cloud services to establish this virtual infrastructure, government IT professionals can focus their unique skills and responsibilities where they are needed most: Delivering better citizen engagement using modern applications, providing better law enforcement through enhanced data analytics and communications, and improving national security through by providing secure communications and data sharing.
Citizens of this country want their government to be efficient and trust their data is safe. The more government departments pivot to aaS cloud systems, the closer they are to achieving that goal. The government can take advantage of this innovation and continue utilizing the free market by delegating the burden of maintaining hardware, storage, and software to a vendor so they can actualize a secure and efficient government for all Americans.
Rob Davies is the vice president of strategy at Peraton. He brings over 33 years of experience supporting Federal IT to the role. He’s charged with leading the company’s efforts to architect and deploy managed service models.