Five years ago this month, then-federal CIO Vivek Kundra issued the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, most commonly known for its Cloud First policy.

What Kundra intentionally left out is how to get to the cloud. Or, you might ask, which cloud?

From Here to Where? Not All Clouds are the Same

Cloud First isn't a mandate that everything must be in the cloud, but that agencies take full advantage of cloud benefits. Essentially, agencies are instructed to evaluate cloud options for certain IT systems before making new investments. Not all applications or services, however, are suitable for just any cloud. Applications with very large data sets (50GB+) might not be a good fit for the cloud at all. (Though at NJVC, we frequently work in support of large geospatial data sets in the cloud. Contact us if you need help with large data sets.) An e-commerce website, on the other hand, would be an excellent fit. An application with a web server and very sensitive data may be a good fit for a hybrid approach with the web server in the cloud and the sensitive data on premises.

Starting with 'How,' Cloud Migration Requirements

Figuring out the "where" actually starts with the "how." A cloud migration strategy must be created first. (NJVC offers migration engineering to help, for example.) A good cloud migration strategy should evaluate a standardized set of criteria including data size, data access patterns, data sensitivity, security, scalability, consolidation and reliability. As part of your cloud enterprise lifecycle, you should periodically reevaluate on-premises applications and services for migration suitability. Remember to include security controls. All cloud migrations need application security, data-in-flight security, and data-at-rest security. Once in the cloud, think about how you will monitor performance. Create a single-pane-of-glass view so you understand the real-time operational health of your assets.

When a Public Cloud Makes Sense

In a public cloud, a commercial provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet. 

Let's take the use case of a website. A major event (product launch, natural disaster, election, etc.) can drive millions of hits on a web server. Commercial cloud providers offer elasticity and scalability in real time that can’t be achieved with a traditional data center. These features can prevent website outages and deliver mission critical information and services without requiring more expensive and less efficient options, such as employing a helpdesk and servicing trouble tickets, or other time-consuming actions you take on your own to increase capacity, such as deploying another server.

Sometimes You Need More Privacy

Private clouds are cloud computing platforms implemented within the corporate firewall, under the control of the IT department.

For example, email is a mission critical service. But some data is too critical to be hosted in a public cloud. Being able to leverage large numbers of cloud-based virtual machines can significantly reduce operation and support costs by reducing the need for large storage arrays and physical servers. This is a common example where a private cloud makes sense.

Hybrid IT: When Your Best Choice Is Both

Hybrid IT is the mix of cloud computing solutions and traditional on-premises IT.

IT is no longer one size fits all. Its evolution has allowed agencies to pick and choose which services and applications should be on premises or in a particular cloud. The linchpin of a mature hybrid enterprise is a a monitoring service to securely access every environment to allow real-time operational and threat views.

Hybrid IT by its very nature has many options. An agency can use secure object storage in a private cloud and the compute resources of a public cloud. 

NJVC’s Approach

We understand that which cloud you need -- if any -- is a function of your unique mission requirements. We help customers decided on the best path and often introduce new ways to leverage the cloud, to help reduce deployment delays, support costs and many other benefits. Public, private or hybrid solutions can all be valid options depending on your requirements.

We help you find the right solution to reduce costs while maintaining mission effectiveness, because Cloud First doesn't have to mean mission second.

About the Author CJ Johnson, Servicefront Solutions Architect

CJ Johnson is a senior solutions architect at NJVC and is leading NJVC's efforts to reinvent enterprise IT. She has solved IT challenges for the federal government across three continents and in four languages for more than 20 years. She is an ardent hockey fan (and is known to live stream games at 0230).