It is not uncommon today for agencies to use multiple cloud services such as Amazon Web Services for putting up computing resources on demand, Salesforce for customer relationship management applications, and either Google or Microsoft for email and collaboration tools.

Moreover, there is a plethora of new cloud service providers offering human resource management, payroll, and enterprise resource management tools. One thing is certain, more and more applications will be supported by cloud software as a service (SaaS) providers, said Bill Rowan, vice president of Federal Sales with VMware.

To that end, agencies should have in place a cloud exit strategy that allows them to move applications from one provider to another if they need to, or if they find a better solution.

“Today, we are seeing a variety of software as a service tools,” more so than when organizations first started down the cloud path, said Rowan. So, government agencies must consider how applications can be moved from one cloud provider to another, especially as they have increasingly large workloads.

“Every time I move from one cloud to another, if I have to refractor [rewrite] my applications, that is not very efficient or cost-effective and doesn’t give [the agency] agility,” he added. Agency managers might not be thinking a lot about exit strategies now. But they should be incorporating them in their concept of operation plans.

Moreover, agencies should look at building cloud architectures that are open and extensible enough to incorporate emerging technology.

“I can’t tell what the next interesting technology will be out there in marketplace,” said Rowan. “However, I can tell you that there will be something out there, and agencies will want to take advantage of it. The next-generation innovation might not come from the big cloud providers. Many smaller companies have innovated solutions that they are trying to get into the cloud marketplace.”

So, according to Rowan, one of the big questions to agencies is, how are you building out your environment–whether it is the private or public cloud? Most agencies are doing a hybrid of on-premise and cloud, but that does not mean that it’s the best method, or that things won’t change in the future to bring another type of environment into favor with the Federal government. What if a new technology requires using public cloud, or some other kind of yet-unknown architecture?

“If organizations want to take advantages of innovation, they have to make sure their architectures are open and have enough agility to incorporate new technology,” Rowan said.

“We’ve found that most government agencies and private organizations have already adopted a hybrid cloud strategy for their future,” said Patrick Burns, Senior Director of Marketing for NetApp. “They want a combination of private and public cloud resources. Hybrid is the new normal. It gives agencies the freedom to move applications and workloads to optimal environments as their needs change and new options gain traction over time.”

“But, here’s the key,” said Burns. “Applications can be spun up and down in various environments. But, data has mass. It takes time to move data and resources to store it. Data requires different degrees of accessibility at many points in time. The good news is that with proper software and tools, there are ways to manage applications and data seamlessly across clouds, regardless of the underlying storage systems. When clouds are connected, organizations are able to draw from the resources of each, move data and applications to new cloud services, and put every workload in the most appropriate place. This Interconnectivity is key and it’s the value proposition that NetApp is built around.”

Sometimes, innovation may require changing the underlying architecture itself, something that does not always get built into Federal agency plans when moving to the cloud, or expanding their cloud operations. Ensuring that there is a valid exit strategy so that any transition can be made with as little disruption as possible will ensure that agencies are able to keep up with the latest and most efficient cloud trends, Rowan added.

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