There is no “one size fits all” for an agency’s cloud journey, but chief information officers (CIOs) from the General Services Administration (GSA) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offered some top-level advice for agencies to help them along their journey.

Jamie Holcombe, CIO at USPTO, said his agency has adopted a multi-cloud approach to its cloud strategy and encouraged agencies to keep their options open when looking for a cloud provider.

“There are other great cloud providers. And if you have a niche, go out there and try to capture the better, cheaper, and faster aspects of it, because it’s all about a business case,” Holcombe said during a Federal News Network event on Sept. 14.

“The other thing I say for planning and architecture, specifically for the cloud: if you have a planning event horizon that’s more than three years, you’re fooling yourself,” he added. “No one knows what’s going to be happening after three years, so lock it down for the first year, make it adaptable for the second and third years, but plan to get out in that third year.”

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David Shive, CIO at GSA, also said his agency has benefited from a multi-cloud approach and is able to move workloads “so that they’re highly portable.” In doing so, Shive said his agency can move from cloud to cloud or from cloud to on-prem and then back out to the cloud, as is “useful” to GSA.

“That helps us be somewhat cloud-agnostic and technology-agnostic and allows us to not only search for the best price, but best usability as well,” Shive said. “Not all clouds are equal, and nor should they be. And we’re able to shape our workloads to be portable enough to move in and out.”

Shive also advised agencies to move data to the cloud where it will produce value for the mission, but to not be pressured to move everything to the cloud if they don’t need to.

“Move stuff to the cloud where it makes sense, where you can produce value by doing so,” he advised. “Some stuff doesn’t deserve or demand to move into the cloud. Five years from now, 10 years from now, I may be saying something different, but right now … I view every legacy IT system from a value proposition. And that includes cybersecurity, cost, and people, and business enablement.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.