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Public Sector Gets Smart on Cloud Adoption

By Tim Wallace

2020 was a memorable year for many reasons. With a global pandemic driving many of us to work (or learn) from home, it may be recognized as a breakout year for “The Cloud,” as we all learned the importance of internet bandwidth and the intricacies of video meetings. For the public sector, the moves were bigger: traditionally reticent to promote remote access, public sector IT organizations had to quickly pivot to maximum capability - securely and reliably.  In the U.S. for example, while IT organizations have made slow but steady progress over the past ten years to embrace the Cloud First Strategy, first launched by Vivek Kundra, U.S. Federal CIO in 2011, to promote IT modernization and datacenter optimization, early adopters of Cloud First faced a number of challenges. 

When moving to the public cloud, legacy applications have to be refactored to take advantage of a cloud ecosystem, data privacy compliance and speed of access are an ongoing common concern, and many saw unexpected costs as periods of high usage ratcheted up their expenses. Regarding security and privacy, public clouds require additional assurance and trust for public sector IT shops to cede some level of control beyond their on-premises/private clouds. In recognition that the U.S.’s Cloud First Strategy led some organizations to forge ahead to meet the mandate with suboptimal outcomes, the U.S. Federal CIO’s office supplanted it with Cloud-Smart in 2019 to provide a more pragmatic path to transform legacy IT infrastructures to cloud.

To learn more about the evolving impacts of cloud migrations across a global IT landscape, Nutanix has commissioned annual surveys through VansonBourne to create the Enterprise Cloud Index. In this most recent survey, we profiled findings among global public sector organizations (governmental and compliance  and educational) with specific focus on U.S. Federal Government IT, seeking to answer: 

  • How well are public sector organizations adapting to cloud models to deliver IT services?
  • What are the most important concerns limiting progress?
  • How does the public sector compare to other industries in embracing cloud?
  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected public sector IT shops and their migration?

More than three-fourths (82%) of global public sector respondents identify a hybrid cloud model of private and public clouds as the ideal IT operating environment for their organization, with U.S. Federal respondents even higher at 87%. In addition, recognizing the full benefits of a hybrid cloud requires significant decommissioning of legacy architecture, and public sector organizations are ahead of global averages in moving to this model.   

While cost and budgets are important to any organization considering a migration to cloud-enabled infrastructure, for public sector organizations, cost savings (27%) rank well behind other factors, such as greater control of IT resource usage (59%); greater flexibility to meet organizational needs (54%); and better ability to support employees and other users (53%). Asked differently, respondents were consistent that security, privacy, and compliance were most important in deciding what infrastructure to deploy. Beyond security, U.S. Federal respondents differed from the global norm in ranking the ability to run existing applications (18%) well higher than the global average (10%), as well as ranking cost advantages lower at 6% compared to the global average of 18%. This should be no surprise to those working with public sector organizations: as former U.S. Federal CIO Suzette Kent once said to me, “the mission is most important!” 

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound effect on public sector organizations this year, not only to spotlight the importance of IT, but also in fueling cloud adoption. Nearly two-thirds (70%) of respondents said COVID-19 has caused IT to be viewed more strategically in their organizations, and drove sharp increases in cloud usage, with sudden sharp demand to give teleworking employees access to IT resources. More than half (55%) of the respondents said they increased their public cloud usage, 31% said they grew hybrid usage, and 17% said they expanded their private cloud environments. 

Fewer U.S. Federal Government respondents use public cloud services than any other industry, but they’re aggressively increasing adoption. More than half of U.S. Federal government respondents (55%) said they’re running more applications in public clouds this year than last, and three-quarters (75%) said they’re likely to run still more in the public cloud next year—significantly outpacing the 42% of global respondents with plans to boost public cloud use next year.  Looking back at previous surveys, the public sector trailed other industries in adopting public cloud services. However, this year’s reports of increased adoptions indicate a leveling of the playing field as programs such as FedRAMP and the increase in government-only versions of public clouds have given U.S. Federal organizations more viable options.

Why Private/On-Premises Cloud deployments are important

To better understand cloud adoption, the survey asked what factors favored running applications on-premises versus a public cloud. 59% identified security, privacy, or compliance as the leading factor, followed by faster data access (45%), better control of the application (45%), and better integration with legacy applications (40%). Organization also cited other factors such as capacity concerns, too much dependency on a cloud vendor, and cases where cost benefits favored on-premises.                                 

Why Hybrid Cloud is the right answer for public sector

The ECI survey spotlighted why public sector organizations favor a hybrid cloud model. Public clouds offer distinct benefits of flexibility, elasticity, and speed in rolling out new capabilities, but private/on-premise clouds overcome challenges faced by public cloud, such as security, data latency and compliance, and full application control. The combination of the public and private clouds present a compelling paradigm.  Still, public sector IT organizations face challenges with hybrid cloud models. More than a third of public sector respondents (36%), for example, said they were short on skills needed to manage mixed private/public cloud environments, and 32% said they lacked expertise in cloud-native technologies and containers, including Kubernetes. In addition, management tools that work across dissimilar cloud platforms are still maturing. Nutanix can help solve this issue by providing  a single, seamless, easy-to-manage platform to support your applications and data across your choice of public, private, or hybrid/multi- clouds.

How Nutanix can help

Nutanix leverages its industry leading, 100% software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure to provide a single cloud platform that seamlessly brings to life your hybrid and multicloud strategy. Whether on-prem or in the cloud, you get unified management with one-click simplicity, intelligent automation, and support for continuity of operations (COOP). Nutanix can help you dramatically reduce the operational complexity of migrating, extending or bursting your applications and data between clouds. You can use a single management plane to manage both your Nutanix private cloud and your public cloud infrastructure.  A true hybrid architecture between Nutanix private cloud and multiple public clouds enables seamless application mobility across clouds. 

Additionally, Nutanix Government Cloud Services for cloud cost governance and desktop-as-a-service achieved FedRAMP Moderate authorization in May 2020, an important certification for public sector organizations in the U.S. Please visit federal, state-local, and education sites to learn more about how Nutanix solutions are transforming the public sector industry.  

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