While the pace of cloud service adoption and movement toward multi-cloud environments has accelerated during the pandemic era, Federal government and private sector experts said that progress was made possible by years of investment in the technology and that taking advantage of cloud environments now is all about being strategic.

That was one key takeaway from panelists who spoke during MeriTalk’s August 11 “Optimizing Multi-Cloud in Federal Data Centers” webinar sponsored by Leidos.

“When I think about cloud adoption, I don’t necessarily think about the last 18 months, I think back to 2013 when we actually made our foray into cloud services,” Vaughn Noga, CIO of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said during the webinar.

“I can tell you from having to manage through the pandemic, we couldn’t have done it as effectively as we did without cloud services, and the adoption of cloud services,” Noga added. “To me, it’s a mission imperative to look at what we can identify … and migrate to the cloud and increase our agility. The ability to scale up and scale down based on seasonal requirements is certainly huge.”

Kapil Bakshi, a Distinguished Systems Engineer at Cisco, agreed that the current push towards multi-cloud environments has been in the works for a while and traced its adoption back to the Federal government’s aim to consolidate data centers, and instructions from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in early 2011 to implement the government’s Cloud First policy.

“The adoption [of cloud services] has only increased,” Bakshi said. “Many years ago, it was data center consolidation. That became Cloud First, then the adoption became Cloud Smart, then it became hybrid cloud. Now we live in a multi-cloud environment. That’s the journey that we’ll continue to see going forward.”

Zachary Kelly, an executive strategist for Amazon Web Services, agreed that the move to the cloud started long before the pandemic, and said that AWS’ Federal government customers are increasingly reaping the benefits of such moves.

“There’s no question that Federal customers are increasingly seeing the benefit of the flexibility of cloud,” Kelly said. “An executive branch agency needed to get COVID information out to the public very rapidly and called on us. We were able to spin up an informational site for this agency in really just a matter of days, which is unusual if you’re in a traditional environment. Cloud facilitated that velocity of information and similarly cost savings.”

Kelly added that another benefit of multi-cloud environments is they are more environmentally friendly than traditional data centers. “Climate change is obviously a huge topic, and cloud is green,” he said. “We’re already seeing questions around, well ‘how can cloud help us be greener and help with issues like climate change?’”

On that point, Noga said the EPA’s cloud platforms allowed the agency to scale rapidly and add additional resources when responding to the California wildfires in 2020.

The agility and flexibility that cloud environments offer was a common thread for the panelists.

Lakshmi Ashok, vice president for Enterprise Management at Leidos, said in the past five years – and increasingly so in the last 18 months – “the need for information at the tip of your hand to make decisions quickly” has become paramount.

“Cloud is actually a means to an end,” Ashok said. “Cloud also has to offer different services like AI/ML  (artificial intelligence/ machine learning) services, data analytics services, intelligent operations services, and cloud-native services that we can quickly use to provide this information. … That’s one of the main attractions of the cloud.”

For more insights on accelerating adoption and optimizing enterprise services in your agency, listen to the full conversation on-demand.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.