A music playlist for relaxing, working out, or just plain entertainment is essential gear for millions of people. And building that playlist is easier than ever when using one of the multitudes of applications that can help you create that perfect ensemble. These applications are predominantly cloud based and cloud native—they are software as a service, or SaaS, in IT vocabulary. And just as playlists are essential for motivational, entertainment, or relaxation purposes, so too are government agencies increasingly leveraging SaaS, albeit for increased efficiency and effectiveness, in the course of governing operations. Much like selecting the tunes for your playlist, choosing the type of SaaS solution to acquire is an important decision when building a modern IT infrastructure.
The Zombies said in their 1968 song (which is on my personal playlist) that it was the time of the season for loving. In the US government, it’s the time of the season for cloud—and it’s on almost every agency’s organizational playlist already. Resulting from several years of maturing federal cloud policies, ongoing Federal Data Strategy implementation, AI and analytics initiatives, and most recently the demonstration of legacy system failures in responding to the pandemic, the US government’s ongoing move to the cloud is in full swing. The flexibility, agility and cost effectiveness of cloud offerings explain why they are the future of government IT services. And with SaaS, taking full advantage of the cloud service provider’s (CSP) responsibility for the applications, maintenance, underlying infrastructure, security, and data protection allows the organization to focus on agency mission and business functions. It’s a far more effective approach than managing all this in-house.
And when it comes to cloud-native capabilities for government agency SaaS solutions, none are more important than managing organizational data. Arguably, cloud-centric data management tools and platforms—with the capability to manage all types of data—are a strategic and operational imperative. Implementing cloud data management platforms and tools, policies, and procedures allows agencies to control their mission and business data—in the cloud, across clouds, and in hybrid environments where data is created, sourced, and stored in a combination of on-premises and cloud applications.
While on-premises based software data management tools work well for traditional workloads and can perform adequately when deployed in a cloud environment, their functionality is limited compared to cloud-native solutions. Organizations lose the advantages of SaaS advanced technology, low maintenance, flexibility, and reduced risk. Data management tools developed as cloud-first and cloud-native are specifically architected for contemporary cloud computing platforms within an elastic and distributed environment.
Unlike many in-house data management tools provided by the major cloud Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers, true multi-tool, cloud-native data management offers advantages that must be considered in agency cloud strategies, including:
The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), managed by the General Services Administration, is a mandated, continuously maturing US government-wide program providing a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. One of the world’s most stringent cloud security requirements programs, it’s becoming easier to use for agencies with continuous improvements. Many government agencies moving to the cloud understand FedRAMP compliance requirements, but this understanding is not consistent across their components and hierarchies. The government cloud transition still has plenty of miles to go.
As government agency’s march to the cloud continues with strategic planning and implementation, attention must be given to FedRAMP-compliant data management tools. A key component of the FedRAMP compliant process is a CSP achieving a formal “in-process” designation, which is listed on the General Service Administration’s FedRAMP website. An in-process designation means a CSP is invested and committed to achieving full compliance for an authority to operate (ATO) on US government systems. Assessing available data management tools with an in-process, authorized, or ready status is an important step in an organization’s cloud journey, especially in terms of best fit, best value, and timeliness of need. Agency selection of the tools that will work best for them should be carefully considered and discussed with the SaaS provider to ensure all considerations and appropriate criteria are applied to the agency’s needs and environment. Gartner also provides a third-party assessment of cloud-based data management tools that can help drive acquisition decisions.
Analogies to the Zombies’ 1968 hit aside, federal agencies should be planning now to add best-in-class, cloud-first, cloud-native data management tools to their playlists. Moving workloads and data to cloud data warehouses and data lakes without interrupting operations is difficult work on the best of days, and it doesn’t get easier post-move to ensure that users have continuous access to that data in real time in any environment.
Moving to the cloud with manual processes or by relying on limited capability data tools that are not on a path to FedRAMP authorization will make the transition even more challenging. The model of lift and shift everything at once from on-premises to the cloud is also suboptimal, leading to unnecessary high costs and low-quality data. Automated, intelligent data and application integration in a connected, hybrid environment is an essential capability for successful government cloud journeys. Make sure you choose your cloud data management SaaS tools wisely.
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