Bob Ballard, Principal Cloud Strategist for Planet Technologies and former Senior Cloud Architect for Microsoft Government, receives a number of common questions from government customers on why to choose the cloud and specifically the Microsoft cloud. Bob shared 5 areas that should be top of mind.
Compliance: The main benefit of choosing Microsoft Cloud platform designed specifically for Government organizations is that it will provide a compliant framework for meeting all of your regulatory, security, governance, and risk management requirements. Azure for Government is no exception, and through continuous enhancements, Microsoft has achieved the following compliance standards:
- FedRAMP (Moderate and High)
- DOD Impact (Level 2 PA – Level 5 PA)
- CJIS (in 24 States)
- HITRUST CSF (includes HIPAA/HITECH)
- IRS 1075
While there is no magic button for achieving and maintaining compliance, Azure for Government provides both – a compliant base environment and a prescriptive guidance necessary for meeting those objectives. This is a big part of our conversation and planning with clients.
Platform Solutions – “It’s not just about VM’s in the Cloud”: Microsoft has an incredibly compelling cloud story with a strength rooted in its comprehensive approach – from Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), to Platform as a Service (PaaS), to Software as a Service (SaaS).
Moving up the cloud stack (to PaaS and SaaS) provides significantly more benefits to Government IT organizations by allowing them to focus entirely on applications and business processes instead of spending time and resources on the maintenance of the underlying infrastructure. Planet has built powerful PaaS and SaaS solutions for the Government customers to help them realize these important benefits.
Microsoft continues to innovate by adding new services and features to Azure at a regular cadence, thus bringing new opportunities for Government customers to leverage built-in functionality for data analytics, custom application development (both enterprise and mobile), machine learning, and many others.
It is not a binary choice: Government enterprise infrastructure is complex. There are elements that simply will never be migrated to the cloud for a variety of reasons. Azure should not be considered a panacea, but rather an extension of your current data center environment, a new tool to be added to the toolbox. This is where we hear the term hybrid cloud thrown around. At Planet, we encourage our clients to keep an open mind around what “hybrid cloud” really means. It is easy to imagine an environment where some workloads are deployed in the cloud, while some remain on-premises. I have found, however, that many organizations can benefit from the use of compound solutions – ones that make use of and seamlessly integrate different cloud and on-premises services. As an example, one solution might include PaaS and IaaS components, as well as integration with existing business systems in your datacenter.
One size may not fit all: Just because you are a government organization, you may not need to use Azure for Government for everything or even at all. By nature, some of the most stringent of compliance standards can be an enemy of innovation and may not be necessary at all times. Many government customers use Azure Public environment to take advantage of the latest features that may have not yet reached the Azure Government or may never. It is not unusual for our customers to use both – Public and Government Azure environments to balance innovation and compliance. We work with clients to demonstrate the simplicity of this approach and the advantage of leveraging the “best of both worlds”.
Strategy + Planning = Successful Deployments: So, what is the difference between strategy and planning? The strategy defines the rules of the game, while planning is about how the game is played. As an example, we work with customers to develop a cloud strategy first – to determine what types of applications should go to the cloud, how should the access to existing data and applications be handled, and to establish priorities based on business drivers and technical reasons. Once this is in place, we plan for specific solutions to be migrated to or developed using Azure. I highly recommend establishing a strategy before you start planning for specific solutions. Are you going to have a Public and a Government tenant? What roles will IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS play in new applications? What about legacy ones? The list goes on and on. The strategy will inform the planning process for the specific applications and services and will save a lot of headaches in the long run.
Meet the Author
Bob Ballard is the Principal Cloud Strategist for Planet Technologies, a six time Microsoft Federal Partner of the Year and six time Microsoft State and Local Government Partner of the Year. He joined Planet two years ago after nearly fourteen years at Microsoft Corporation serving as their Chief IT Strategist for Government. Both Federal and State and Local Government organizations rely on Bob for his insight and practical approach to computing.