Cloud First to DCOI: A Federal Hybrid IT Evolution

The hybrid IT methodology is emerging as the path toward future-proofing IT strategies. CIOs seeing the role of data expand in their business are looking for ways to secure the resources and expertise needed to scale their IT infrastructure as demand grows exponentially each year. But these preparations are not limited to just the private sector. Government agencies are also responding to an increasingly digital landscape by expanding their physical and virtual infrastructure. Public sector IT leaders continue to navigate a constantly evolving security and compliance landscape, while also needing to rewrite applications that are decades old. Hybrid IT has become the path forward.

QTS defines hybrid IT as a mix of cloud and on-premise technologies, managed by both in-house and third-party personnel. Fundamentally, IT decision makers identify which aspects of their infrastructure belong in the cloud and which belong in on-premises physical environments, and then determine what resources they will need to deploy, maintain, monitor and secure those environments. As businesses partner with data center and cloud services providers, they build a custom mix of in-house and outsourced solutions, resources and infrastructure. Two key events shaped how federal CIOs have incorporated hybrid IT into their overall data strategies: Cloud First and DCOI.

The Cloud First Mandate

Spurred by the issuance of the Cloud First mandate in 2010, cloud adoption has been consistently gaining steam. IDC predicts that federal cloud investments will reach $3.3 billion in 2021. Cloud computing is now an integral part of building scalable, sustainable IT strategies. When describing the role of cloud in today’s government IT landscape, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers CIO Greg Garcia told Federal News Radio, “The cloud offers great mission resiliency and cost-efficiency.”

Cloud computing remains the focal point as federal hybrid IT continues to evolve. However, it is important to remember that federal CIOs face a daunting task of having to figure out how best to move legacy applications to the newer platforms. Many applications have been around for a long time and need to be replaced or rewritten to take advantage of the public cloud capabilities. Additionally, security and compliance considerations that are unique to the public sector must be taken into consideration. Because of the highly sensitive nature of the data and applications they manage, agencies must have a clear understanding of the logical security protocols, backup systems, data encryption, availability and reliability offered by a cloud solution. The industry is learning that different cloud models are better suited for certain applications than others. The result is the hybrid cloud approach.

Hybrid cloud strategies offer agencies flexibility and customization while still meeting advanced security and compliance requirements. Furthermore, the GSA recently highlighted one way a hybrid cloud enables a phased approach to IT modernization, “Hybrid allows an agency to phase in new technologies without making wholesale adoptions agency-wide.”

QTS CloudRamp™

For agencies facing migration challenges, QTS recently partnered up with AWS to offer CloudRamp. Available exclusively on AWS Marketplace, QTS CloudRamp is a turnkey secure and compliant colocation solution optimized for hybrid cloud workloads and public cloud migrations. It offers immediate capacity and high-speed direct connectivity to an AWS environment with no annual commitment, allowing agencies to deploy their legacy infrastructure into pre-built cabinets billed on a month-to-month basis. This provides agencies with the flexibility move out of their current facility quickly, while also giving them time to migrate the applications to AWS at their own pace and without having to incur huge data transfer costs.

The Data Center Optimization Initiative

But cloud computing is not the only arena in which the hybrid methodology is emerging as the way to right-size solutions and reduce inefficiencies -- federal agencies are also turning to data center providers in an effort to streamline their physical infrastructure.

Over the past decade, federal agencies have rapidly expanded the number of data centers, leading to the implementation of the Data Center Optimization Initiative. According to the GSA, the DCOI has four key objectives:

● Develop and report on data center strategies.
● Transition to more efficient infrastructure, such as cloud services and inter-agency shared services.
● Leverage technology advancements to optimize infrastructure.
● Provide quality services for the public good.

Federal agencies have been making progress, closing more than 1,900 data centers and saving nearly $1 billion since the DCOI was introduced, but the number of data centers in the federal arena is actually a great deal higher than originally estimated in 2009. Prior to introducing the DCOI, the federal government estimated that there were roughly 1,100 data centers managed across agencies. According to U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly, by 2015 they realized the number of federal data centers was actually closer to 12,000.

In September the GAO released a report identifying the challenges agencies face in their efforts to meet DCOI requirements. In an effort to achieve objectives and give agencies more time to optimize their data center strategies and improve infrastructure efficiency, the House has passed and the Senate has proposed the FITARA Extension amendment, which would extend the DCOI deadline from October 2018 to October 2020.

Data center providers are at the forefront of helping federal agencies to meet DCOI objectives. QTS takes a partnership approach to helping federal IT leaders create a custom hybrid IT mix of public, private and community cloud solutions, colocation, custom data center infrastructure and managed services with an industry-leading standard for security and compliance. View this on-demand webinar on building your federal hybrid IT strategy featuring and contact a QTS expert today to learn more.


David McOmber, QTS Executive Vice President of Public Sector & Federal Sales
Mr. McOmber has more than 20 years of industry experience. Prior to QTS he served as IBM's Vice President of Federal Civilian and Healthcare Agencies where he was responsible for the overall strategy, execution and sales management in the areas of software, hardware, services and cloud. He currently resides in Ashburn, VA.