Home > Cloud computing, Data center, Virtualization > Survey: Agencies step gingerly into the cloud

Survey: Agencies step gingerly into the cloud

Ever notice how virtualization and cloud computing always seem to come up in the same federal breath? Also data center consolidation. They seem to exist in a kind of resonant triad. If you parse it out, it’s easy to see why. Virtualization is a ready-made way to effect data center consolidation, or even of cutting the size and cost of an existing data center through higher server utilization rates. Cloud also fits into the data center consolidation picture; just replace data centers with cloud services.

Aileen Black has noticed the connection between consolidation, cloud and virtualization. As head of VMWare’s public sector business, it’s her job to get federal agencies to buy VMWare’s virtualization platform. Perhaps not buy it directly, but approve it’s use. Black says 90 percent of VMWare’s sales are via resellers. Either way, she is a tireless champion of virtualization.

As Black sees it, virtualization is the “on-ramp” to cloud computing.

I agree. If you are buying capacity in a cloud, virtual machines will, all else being equal, use capacity more efficiently than the standard one-application-per-server approach. That’s sorta the point.

Whether you use the cloud as your backup or to host your production environment, you should negotiate pricing based on the number of VMs rather then the number of physical servers, consistent with service level agreements that ensure the cloud provider doesn’t get cute by stuffing too many VMs into a single server.

The backslope of high utilization is slower performance caused by disk swapping or crashes from over-committed memory.

Although cloud-first is a mandate, the policy hasn’t produced a wholesale rush to join the cloud generation. Agencies are going cloud, but just not fast and whole-hog. A survey commissioned by VMWare, and conducted by Meritalk has put some numbers on this phenomenon. One hundred sixty seven federal CIOs and IT managers responded.

The survey shows a somewhat reluctant group of federal tech managers. They know the virtues of cloud computing, with 64 percent reporting it will reduce costs and improve services. But 79 percent say they have not quite swung into the cloud-first column. Most plan on getting there within two years. And when they do, it won’t be with mission or enterprise applications, but rather with e-mail for the most part.

Why the slow adoption? No surprises — security, the budget needed to switch things over to the cloud, mystery about the FedRAMP process rank as top obstacles.

The reluctance to put mission applications in the cloud is understandable, but that doesn’t translate to reluctance to virtualize the machines running them. Black says lots of critical applications in federal agencies are virtualized. My research in following virtualization collaborates this for large enterprises in general. Virtualization is a mature technology with an ecosystem of third-party tools to support virtual system management, optimized backup and recovery, and capacity planning. And although it dominates, VMWare has competition. Microsoft, for example, also sells a suite of virtualization tools. For federal agencies, the leap of faith is not into virtualization but into the cloud.

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