Where does the cloud go next? Apply for USDA, GSA

The Department of Agriculture and the General Services Administration have been at the forefront of the federal government’s transition to the cloud for a decade.

USDA was one of the first agencies to move its email to the cloud in 2010. It was also the first to test IT Centers of Excellence, which focused specifically on data center consolidation and adoption of the cloud.

GSA, both internally and from an acquisition perspective, has put cloud services at the center of its mind since it turned the tide and moved to Google for office productivity tools and launched an email contract vehicle as a service in 2011.

So like the old EF Hutton ad – I know I’m dating myself – but when GSA and USDA are talking, other agencies should listen.

The latest examples of the next direction of the federal cloud effort, what you might call the third phase of this journey, focuses on governance, or in a less boring discourse, controlling sprawl. cloud or cloud cat breeding, or – well, you got it.

“I think the agencies are trying to figure out what the governance model is and how can they manage all of their different subscriptions,” said Susie Adams, chief technology officer for Microsoft’s federal sales, in an interview with Federal News Network. “What we’re seeing is that agencies are taking a close look at DevSecOps and what tools, policies and procedures, and how automation can be used to deploy software and capabilities across different clouds. The trend we’re also seeing is for Kuberneties clusters and running containers on multiple platforms and managing them through a single pane of glass. “

USDA’s new cloud task force is all about creating that one pane of glass.

Gary Washington, the head of agricultural information, said the IOC’s internal council created the group in July.

Gary Washington is the chief information officer of the USDA.

“The USDA Cloud Working Group is a collaborative effort between the CIO’s office and the mission area to identify and document best practices and lessons learned regarding all aspects of adoption, procurement, of the implementation, management and impact of the cloud on the USDA mission, ”Washington said in a statement. email to Federal News Network. “This working group is co-chaired by CIO Sergio McKenzie, Mission Area Assistant, Market and Regulatory Programs (MRP) and Associate CIO Digital Infrastructure (DISC) David Peters of my organization. All mission areas and OCIO centers are represented on this working group and will participate in the initial projects of the working group.

While Washington has not identified the initial plans, he said the task force, in general, will meet every two weeks, especially during the first 90 days when they focus on cloud adoption and management deliverables.

“A USDA-wide vision for cloud adoption and management and its associated implementation strategies that advance mission delivery on behalf of every program across USDA,” Washington said. “We expect the working group to assess our cloud acquisition approaches and policies. We expect a cloud community of practice to be the logical outcome of this working group. “

In the short and long term, the goals of the task force are to try to transform the cloud from a back office and network problem to a mission or program problem.

“The group’s goal is to continually improve the achievement of USDA’s mission through continuous IT modernization and updated policies to support the technology. Cloud technology can enhance USDA’s mission by improving interfaces between USDA and its stakeholders, accelerating data sharing and analysis, and lowering the total cost of operations, ”Washington said. “The increased awareness and standardization elements are also expected to have significant additional benefits that also enable continued security management and Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) score improvement. “

Adams of Microsoft Federal said that while she is not particularly familiar with the USDA task force efforts, many agencies are trying to make some semblance of their cloud efforts.

“The main trend I see is how to approach all of this and make it more prescriptive for people who deploy services. How do we create landing zones or infrastructure as code and compliance as code so that you run scripts and put governance on top of it all, ”she said. “It’s based on rules-based access so they can’t tweak it and change it. You manage the way people deploy and manage cloud instances and make sure they’re secure. We get a lot of questions about what a good governance model is and how to manage it so that you stay on top of this hybrid world.

Future cloud market RFI

This hybrid world that most agencies will continue to live in for the foreseeable future is the driving force behind GSA’s latest effort.

In the coming weeks, GSA will publish a Request for Information (RFI) to create a cloud marketplace bringing together service providers, integrators and other vendors to create a one-stop-shop for implementation and management. cloud services.

Laura Stanton, GSA Support Commissioner in the Federal Acquisition Service’s IT Category Office, said at the recent FCW-sponsored GSA Industry Day, said the first phase of the market is expected to be in place in fiscal 2022.

Laura Stanton is the Assistant Commissioner, Office of the Information Technology Category (ITC) at the Federal Acquisition Service of the GSA.

“We are starting to better understand how agencies should be able to buy the cloud and once they buy it, how they should govern and manage it,” she said. “We want to put in place a framework and a contractual vehicle that will allow agencies to purchase these basic cloud services that we see they need more and more.”

The need for support services can be a common theme throughout this cloud transition.

The evolution of cloud buying started in 2011 with the Global Email as a Service Purchase Agreement, which for all intents and purposes came too early and struggled. GSA soon after created a special article number (SIN) in the cloud as part of its planning program. And then he developed a Global Purchase Agreement on top of the timelines for things like the Department of Defense Defense Enterprise Office Solutions (DEOS) contract.

Stanton said the market will provide agencies with a more agile framework for purchasing and managing cloud services.

“We have learned several things. There is all the post-award governance that agencies need to manage their cloud services. We know professional IT service agencies need it when purchasing licenses, ”she said. “So instead of having to do them separately or having each agency integrate the necessary requirements, or even having to integrate their own separate core security requirements with FedRAMP, we are looking at what these sets are. ‘basic requirements, let’s say moderate FedRAMP, and how to get them into the marketplace so agencies don’t have to worry about them. They can get everything they need to develop a complete cloud solution. Part of this is because we always hear that agencies have to go to multiple locations to buy the cloud. “

What the GSA and USDA initiatives continue to demonstrate is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing cloud services. But, as Adams of Microsoft Federal said, regardless of whether an agency takes a centralized or decentralized approach, most of the questions are the same: How do you best secure the cloud? How to best manage the services? And how do you use the cloud to support mission goals?

“Often, IT stores are still run like traditional IT stores where they control modernization projects. ensure the governance and management of environments.

It is clear that the future of cloud services will be determined by the needs of the mission, putting pressure on DSI stores to create the safeguards to ensure success.

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