GSA moving to more modular cloud environment

The General Services Administration (GSA) Headquarters building. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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The General Services Administration plans to increase cloud brokerage having “stress-tested” cloud technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Deputy CIO Beth Killoran.

GSA had about 50% of its applications in the cloud when the pandemic hit and only needed to surge existing cloud capabilities to help agencies like the Small Business Administration administer COVID-19 relief funds.

Now that people have seen the cloud’s value, GSA wants to expand into areas where the technology hasn’t been used previously, and that requires a more modular or hybrid environment.

“A lot of agencies have found that not all clouds have the same types of capabilities, and I don’t think that we want to have cloud lock — similar to what we’ve had with other kinds of platform locks before,” Killoran said during the IT Modernization Summit presented by FedScoop on Wednesday. “And so I think we’re going to start seeing some cloud brokerage and some cloud distribution so that we can utilize the best capabilities of cloud environments.”

A move to plug-and-play cloud technologies along with app rationalization — where agencies decide what to keep, replace, retire or consolidate — will help cater to government’s increasingly distributed workforce thanks to telework, Killoran added.

In-house, on-premises services with their burdensome hardware requirements and database and systems administration were necessary when the technology came out, said Alexander Romero, director of strategy in the chief technologist office at VMware End User Computing.

Agencies had to build a stack, platform and talent to manage the two, but now capabilities can be purchased straight from the cloud.

“Now they’re being moved out and made available as a service in, thankfully, the [Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program] environment and on the FedRAMP marketplace,” Romero said.

That, in turn, allows the agency’s tech talent to focus on more mission-oriented work.

IT modernization should accelerate now that agencies have playbooks on moving their apps to the cloud, which should also make them more forthcoming about sharing best practices, Killoran said.

“I think agencies will be more willing to share some of their open source libraries, some of those applications that might already be cloud-ready and cloud-enabled,” she said.

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Beth Killoran, Cloud, coronavirus, Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, General Services Administration (GSA), IT Modernization, Small Business Administration (SBA), telework, VMware
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