There’s plenty of evidence suggesting multicloud will play a key role in the coming wave of investments in U.S. infrastructure.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which became law late in 2021, is poised to spend $1.2 trillion in the coming years to revamp the nation’s critical transportation and power systems. The Act also will spend $75 billion on technology upgrades nationwide, with $65 billion earmarked for broadband expansion to underserved populations and $7.5 billion to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles.
These initiatives shine a light on the rising importance of digital infrastructure, which will require some combination of on-premises data centers and public cloud services. These hybrid multicloud IT systems would power a growing number of government services that are increasingly online and often evolving.
“Infrastructure investment is going to be as much about bits and bytes and transistors as it is going to be about cement and steel,” said Sameer Sharma, a general manager at Intel who specializes in IoT and smart-cities technologies, in a recent webinar hosted by the tech-focused website Protocol. “That's a big change in mindset.”
Digital infrastructure uses software to emulate hardware, dramatically increasing capacity without similar increases in equipment costs. Sharma explained in the webinar that digital tools can produce similar benefits in real-world infrastructure, using sensors and learning algorithms to optimize vehicle traffic, reducing the expense of building new roads and highways.
“If we can create capacity by more efficiently utilizing the roads of today,” he proposed, “why invest billions of dollars when a few million dollars can get you the same outcome?”
The same concept applies across airports, bridges, public transit and broadband expansion, he added. Investing in digital infrastructure yields better outcomes at lower costs.
Multicloud Grows Across the Public Sector
We’re already seeing the impact of multicloud in the federal government. For instance, the National Security Agency made headlines in 2019 after awarding a $10 Billion could computing services contract to Microsoft. That deal was contested and kick off “a full and open competition for a future multicloud acquisition,” said John Sherman, the Pentagon’s chief information officer in various articles, including one by CNBC.
The contract was awarded to AWS in 2022.
"This contract is a continuation of NSA's Hybrid Compute Initiative to modernize and address the robust processing and analytical requirements of the Agency,” A spokesperson for the NSA told The Register.
Many in the industry questioned why the agency picked one public cloud computing provider when there’s a growing trend around hybrid multicloud.
“It may make perfect sense to NSA now, but it’s hard to imagine locking any organization into even one top-secret cloud offering when others are obviously available is a smart decision over the long term,” wrote Jason Miller in the Federal News Network.
The latest Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index (Public Sector) survey showed that government agencies’ adoption of multicloud outpaces the global average. Adoption is expected to nearly double from 39% to 67% in the next three years, the report said.
Revisiting the Core Appeal of Multicloud
A recent article in the magazine FedTech explored how U.S. government agencies are weighing the advantages of multicloud technologies. These benefits will provide a backdrop for other agencies embracing multicloud when investing federal technology infrastructure funding:
- Redundancy – Multicloud architectures allow agencies to run workloads in one public cloud and back them up to another cloud service provider.
- Agility – Agencies can keep some applications on-site while implementing others in the public cloud, depending on which environment produces the best outcomes. They also can avoid vendor lock-in.
- Scale – Unlimited storage across multiple clouds means agencies can adapt quickly and spin up new services to meet changing requirements, as they did during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Cost – The total cost of ownership can be controlled and potentially reduced by embracing specific cloud providers for specific needs.
Multicloud’s Role in 2 Targets of Federal Spending
The Protocol webinar spent ample time on two particular areas where multicloud will help the U.S. government realize its infrastructure hopes: broadband expansion and power grid upgrades.
The U.S. government plans to distribute $42 billion in grants to the states to deliver last-mile high-speed internet connectivity to underserved groups, said Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information with the U.S. Department of Commerce, in the Protocol webinar.
“We have been talking about the digital divide in this country for over 20 years,” Davidson said. “And thanks to the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we finally have the resources to seriously close that divide.”
To expand broadband, he said states and private sector internet service providers (ISPs) will have to identify every street address in underserved areas like farms and ranches. They also need to know the precise locations of residences so they can accurately assess how much fiber or fixed-wireless capacity they need to get connectivity inside people’s homes.
The key challenge is that states and ISPs need to implement advanced mapping software that can collect all the location data they require and make it readily accessible to the people who need it. Current maps from the FCC don’t have enough granular accuracy to fulfill these goals.
It’s easy to envision agencies and ISPs using multicloud to spin up new software environments for hosting, processing and protecting location data.
Turning to power grid upgrades, the Protocol webinar panel explored how the Federal Infrastructure spending includes $62 billion for clean-energy projects. Some of this money will help add thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines to the national electric grid. This should make it easier to distribute power from renewables like wind and solar into sections of the grid that have the highest power requirements.
“This would help the country move to a more integrated grid: one that could share power among regions and potentially help control electricity price volatility and shortages,” according to the consultants at PWC.
Also, $7.5 billion will be allocated to expanding electric vehicle charging stations, which could double the number of public EV charging stations in the next five years, according to PWC. Cloud technologies will help power grid operators assess current usage data and analyze weather records to model future electrical demands. “Smart” chargers will record energy usage and help drivers avoid running out of battery power.
“Cloud connectivity helps chargers keep up with the constantly changing environmental rules and predictive maintenance,” explained Joost van Abeelen, former head of electric vehicle charging services at ABB, a maker of EV chargers, in an interview with The Forecast by Nutanix.
Van Abeelen said smart charging stations receive automatic software updates via the internet just like a personal computer does, which keeps operating costs low.
Moving Toward a More Equitable, Sustainable Future
The Protocol webinar explored how infrastructure spending aims to distribute the nation’s prosperity more fairly while addressing issues like sustainability and climate change. Investments in roads, transit and digital networks will advance these causes.
“I think the transportation infrastructure is going to be just as important as the broadband infrastructure,” said, Nicol Turner Lee, senior fellow and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, in the webinar.
Lee said Americans must have flexible transportation options and high-speed internet connectivity to tap into the information economy of the 2020s.
People on the move will need connectivity wherever they travel in the digital economy. It’s safe to say multicloud technologies will help make that possible.
Tom Mangan is a contributing writer. He is a veteran B2B technology writer and editor, specializing in cloud computing and digital transformation. Contact him on his website or LinkedIn.
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