Moving to the cloud comes with a number of benefits, but Federal experts on April 6 stressed that agencies still need to implement good cloud governance and management processes in order to control costs.

At the Data Center Sustainability Summit, co-hosted by the General Services Administration and the Information Technology Industry Council, Gerald Caron, the CIO and assistant inspector general for information technology at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), said understanding how to manage an agency’s cloud deployment is the key to cost avoidance.

“Something that people are still starting to come to realize is how to manage in the governance of the cloud infrastructures,” Caron said. “It’s like at the home, if you leave the water on, guess what? You’re paying for every gallon of water that keeps going. So, turn things off when you’re not using them… there’s a management aspect of it, but the great thing about the cloud is the flexibility it provides.”

Caron explained that while the cloud takes away many of the problems that come with the management of a physical data center, there are now different things that need to be managed. Caron manages a multi-cloud ecosystem at HHS, but said his team is “drawing up the governance around that as we go along.”

HHS is working on developing better planning as it goes, but Caron said the cloud allows the agency to “spin down services” if they’re not using them and just as easily spin them back up as needed.

“It’s like your car nowadays,” Caron said. “You come to the red light, what happens? Your car shuts off. And then when you take your foot off the brake, what happens? Your car starts because it’s supposed to be saving gas. Same thing with the cloud. You’re not using it, spin it down, understand your storage as best as possible, and try to estimate that.”

In doing so, Caron said his agency is starting to see how it can save money. He said his team recently completed a cost-understanding exercise to see how to better manage cloud costs, which he said is like “trial and error in some instances.”

“The better we can understand and start planning and taking advantage of the services these clouds do to save money, the better off we are,” Caron added.

David Catanoso, acting director of Application Hosting, Cloud, and Edge Solutions at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), said his agency also has a program to understand how to “optimize your spend in the cloud.”

Just this week, the VA hit a “big milestone” of migrating over 200 applications into its enterprise cloud, according to Catanoso. With about 1,000 applications total, Catanoso said VA “realized fairly early in the process” that it needed to migrate applications “more in an ad hoc way.”

“We stood up what we call a health assessment process within our cloud environment where we periodically review each project for health assessment that will check on are they doing FinOps to make sure they’re spending correctly,” Catanoso said. “We tune down the use of storage, snapshots, turning on and off services, tunings, right-sizing services – there’s a lot of techniques… that we can use to cut costs.”

“It’s constant improvement,” he added. “You don’t just move it and then leave it right. You move it and tune it.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.