Blue Skies Ahead?

07.24.2012

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Written by Tod Tompkins

Last week, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) issued a request for information (RFI) to obtain new ideas and potential acquisition vehicles for web-based storage and computing services.  The RFI states, “One emerging concept in cloud computing is that of a ‘cloud broker’ or an entity that manages the use, performance and delivery of cloud services, and negotiates relationships between Cloud Providers and Cloud Consumers.”  This TBD “cloud brokerage” would provide agencies an alternative to GSA’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA).

I think this is a significant step forward, encouraging collaboration between all members of the cloud community, helping government achieve the “Cloud First” policy and ultimately creating enhanced collaboration and cost savings. However, as government increasingly puts emphasis on cloud and its benefits – there is relatively little discussion of the true cost of migration from a legacy system to a private, community, hybrid or public cloud environment. It is important to build a strong computing foundation prior to moving applications and data to a cloud environment.

One of the challenging aspects of many legacy system migrations is that the applications are written in an older programming language, such as COBOL. Essentially, one of two options must be enacted before migration is feasible. 1) Rewrite the code in a more modern programming language, or 2) migrate applications to a modern platform allowing programmers to utilize modern languages. Solutions are available to allow agencies to migrate legacy system applications, enabling programmers to update applications in more contemporary operating systems such as Unix®, Linux™ and Windows®  and languages  such as Ruby on Rails®, Java™, C  variants and others – essentially creating the stepping stone to moving to a cloud environment in an extremely low-risk fashion. They also enable access to the scalability, collaboration and cost savings cloud can provide.  Given that option #2 can be completed in a matter of months, rather than the years of requirements building and the additional years of execution of rewriting code, not to mention a significantly smaller price tag and minimal risks from entering the unknown of building a new set of applications. Migration is the best option to maintain government programs while enabling all the benefits of recent cloud computing developments.

Do you agree? Is your agency facing roadblocks to deploying cloud solutions for your legacy systems? Let me know your ideas for helping the government create cost savings. Connect with us in the comments section below, on Facebook or Twitter.

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