Department of Defense Wants to Move Majority of Apps to the Cloud by 2020

By Peter Bernstein June 29, 2015

It is no secret that the U.S. government wants to upgrade its IT capabilities and that moving them into the cloud is a priority. In fact, it is a mandate. However, a recent report, “DoD’s Move to the Cloud: Box it Up or Build New?” by MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT, revealed that the Department of Defense (DoD)—despite enthusiasm for the cloud—may have its efforts hindered by budget constraints.

The study, underwritten by General Dynamics Information Technology, reveals that DoD agencies would like to move 57 percent of their applications to the cloud by 2020 but believe that budgets will allow just 24 percent of applications to make the transition.

The report surveyed 150 Federal IT professionals from DoD and Intelligence agencies to examine where agencies stand in their move to the cloud and how they determine which approach to take – migrating legacy applications or building new.

The enthusiasm for the cloud is overwhelming. Top benefits cited by respondents were:

  • Improved agility (87 percent)
  • Saved money (87 percent)
  • Saved time (87 percent)

But getting from here to there is complicated.  For example, as the study revealed, the approaches suggested vary:

  • So far 57 percent of DoD’s cloud applications have been migrated from legacy applications
  • 43 percent have been built new in the cloud.
  • But looking to the future, a far greater number of DoD and Intelligence IT professionals (52 percent) believe that building new is a smarter long-term move, while just 18 percent favor migrating legacy applications.

“Both approaches – migrating legacy applications and building new in the cloud – have their merits and their place. Against the backdrop of tight budgets, agencies must take time to complete a full analysis of each application’s needs before pulling the trigger to ensure they make the best –more decision from a cost and performance perspective,” said Stanley Tyliszczak, vice president technology integration and chief engineer, General Dynamics Information Technology.

Image via Shutterstock

It was also noted that the reason for the conflicting view on box it up versus build it are the factors that go into the decision-making process on a given application. Sixty-nine percent complete a security analysis or review; 65 percent assess computing, network, and storage needs; and 57 percent complete a workload analysis.

“When it comes to cloud, it appears you can’t have it all,” said Steve O’Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. “Tight budgets require tough decisions – agencies must prioritize apps that will move the needle rather than just batting down the low-hanging fruit. Building new will allow them to drop a lot of legacy baggage for greater agility.”

The report has an interesting insight into the evaluation process.  It notes that, “While agencies see big benefits to building new – citing security (56 percent), deployment speed (51 percent), and opportunity to reduce redundancies (48 percent) as the top advantages – they face hurdles along the way. Lack of funding (43 percent), integration challenges (41 percent), and length of time needed to develop requirements and launch (34 percent) are the biggest drawbacks to the approach. In addition, it is sometimes necessary to migrate a legacy application instead of building new due to security concerns or a need to maintain specific data structure.”

In fact, the bottom line appears to be that IT pros favor migrating legacy apps and building new ones.

Government agencies, particularly in this case DoD have unique requirements which makes the findings of the report problematic in terms of its applicability in the commercial sector. That said, however, the issue of box it up or build it is something that all IT departments are dealing with in the context of their evaluation of moving to the cloud and there certainly are some lessons to be learned here. This would include the challenge of doing so when budgets are constrained for a variety of reasons including line-of-business priorities on what needs to be upgraded, in what order, how and at what cost.




Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
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