Government agencies are starting to move to multi-cloud deployments. Technology teams may be feeling the pressure of vendor lock-in or fear missing out on emerging tools from a diverse array of cloud service providers (CSPs).

Yet, one cloud may be sufficient to support the wide-ranging aspects of a modernization effort. An increasingly open environment among the major CSPs practically ensures that a single-cloud implementation, if done correctly, allows for the integration of new tools and emerging capabilities over time from the commercial cloud ecosystem.

With multi-cloud comes greater complexity. IT leaders face higher administrative costs and must possess the skillsets needed to manage different clouds. Without devoting energy towards getting the most out of single cloud, agencies face steep learning curves and rework to get the most out of multi-cloud.

It’s essential to get single cloud right first.

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Without devoting energy towards getting the most out of single cloud, agencies face steep learning curves and rework to get the most out of multi-cloud.


Avoid lift and shift

To get the most out of any cloud configuration, agencies need to avoid creating suboptimal environments by tying the apps and processes they move to the cloud to legacy systems and databases. Replicating legacy systems in the cloud bogs down the migration process, creating significant time and costs in refactoring applications.

By and large, agencies are currently using cloud only for compute and storage. They may see some benefit in trading CAPEX for OPEX, but they aren’t fully leveraging the power and the possibility of a cloud-based IT infrastructure.

Some may see migrating to the cloud using a “lift and shift” strategy as low risk, but they are setting themselves up for future issues. Using only compute and storage (or IaaS) still leaves applications in a monolithic architecture that is fragile, and likely costs more to operate in the cloud versus on-prem.

Instead of abstracting away underlying infrastructure management to allow teams to focus more time on delivering business value, lift and shift increases complexity and system administration burden. Agencies miss the benefits of going to the cloud in the first place.

What does it mean to do single cloud right?

Go cloud native

Cloud native is architecting systems to fully utilize cloud services beyond Infrastructure-as-a-Service. For example, instead of installing a database on a virtual machine hosted in the cloud, a cloud native architecture uses a database service instead, passing administrative burden onto the CSP.

Most CSPs offer seamless processes for taking databases and applications from legacy to the cloud, as well as tools to perform infrastructure maintenance. This means system architects and developers may turn to higher order work and focus on delivering business value.

Suppose an agency has a SQL server running on-prem. A “lift and shift” to the cloud might entail an additional licensing fee, whereas a cloud-native approach moves data into the CSP’s proprietary database without any added expense.

Continuing with the database example, auto-scaling, replication, and failover become a configuration change with cloud native, versus having to architect a robust set of virtual machines. The cloud native approach delivers automatic scaling and provisioning, along with replication and disaster recovery.

Pulling the thread further, the configuration can be codified and reused on other applications, creating a phoenix architecture, versus a snowflake. Every system is unique in a snowflake architecture, making governance, security, operations, and application development potentially more challenging. Whereas phoenix architectures are immutable and can be “torn down” and redeployed at will.

Next steps

Agencies unfamiliar with a cloud native approach can take these initial steps to begin.

  1. Help IT teams build the skills needed for their single cloud through training and development.
  2. Aim to find one project where it’s possible to try a cloud native approach, such as moving databases to the cloud and integrating them with cloud applications and developing environments.
  3. Encourage teams to work with their mission and business partners to speed time to value once alleviated from the burden of highly customized code.

By taking this approach, IT teams will be in a better position to utilize the cloud’s powerful capabilities, while simultaneously positioning the agency to benefit from multi-cloud environments and emerging capabilities.

Rather than rush to multi-cloud, federal IT leaders should first get the maximum value out their single cloud. By getting one cloud right, they can lay the foundation for future success, with the right skills and the right tools to drive modernization and meet the needs of the mission going forward.

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David Stepp

Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Technology Account Lead

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