Education Government

Get Ahead of the Cloud and Make it Work for You

Moving from legacy data systems to the multi-cloud can be daunting for those who don’t know where to start.

Due to cost concerns and other factors, some organizations in the public sector have held back on ditching tethered hardware in favor of secure cloud-based network, storage, and security platforms. But as the rise of remote work and education puts a bigger strain on internal systems, many public institutions are now catching up on the latest digital enterprise strategies.

It’s a critical time for government information heads to focus on value-driven IT investments as the public sector enters a new era.

The multi-cloud will remain the primary model for digital infrastructure and operations for the next two decades if not longer, according to industry projections. Research from a VMware-sponsored survey in 2021 shows that 75 percent of businesses use two or more public cloud services, for example, while 40 percent use three or more.

During our panel “Simplify Your Cloud Journey” at VMware Explore 2022 in San Francisco, three seasoned leaders talked about how public institutions can align their cloud strategies to their biggest business needs. VMware SLED Senior Strategist Herbert Thompson, Cal State East Bay Chief Information Officer Jake Hornsby, and CA Department of Technology Deputy Chief State Technology Officer Scott MacDonald discussed best practices and some of the missteps that organizations tend to make.

“Across government, the role of enterprise architecture has been put back into the forefront,” Thompson said. “You see these big EA activities that drive the way we’re assembling technology as opposed to just buying technology.” 

Tapping to one of the many multi-cloud services available today can help bolster vital operations, such as seamless online courses and internal communications, while offering greater security. That allows institutions to offer better learning and teaching experiences.

VMware partners with customers in federal, state, and local government and public higher education to better navigate the latest technologies. Here are some of the highlights from our discussion on the most effective cloud strategies:

Carve Your Own Path to a Secure Multi-Cloud Future

Every journey to the cloud is unique, Thompson noted. While countless organizations within the public sector will need to become more data centric in the years ahead, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. “You have to step back and ask yourself: What are we trying to do and why are we moving to the cloud?” MacDonald cautioned. For California’s Technology Department, the pandemic made it clear that some internal systems required greater support. The state government would issue a press release at a time of high urgency, for example, and millions of people would hit that site instantly. That drove the need for more robust digital networks and greater autoscaling. “There’s no way we could have supported that within our data center,” MacDonald said. “Within the cloud, we were able to go from a couple of servers to a hundred servers in a matter of minutes and then, all of a sudden, scale back down again.” He emphasized that in making such a big leap on the digital side, organizations need to make sure they have the properly trained staff to support their cloud operations.

Don’t Shy Away from Digital Disruption in Today’s Climate

CIOs and other industry leaders who have been doing things a specific way for decades may hear a word like disruption and say, “No thank you.” Cal State East Bay’s Hornsby said some organizations are so entrenched in their daily practices they are not able to move forward with pivoting away from outdated systems. “Think about what that means when you buy a new set of hardware from your favorite dealer. It’s kind of like buying the next pack of cigarettes,” Hornsby quipped. “You’re going to finish it, right? That means you have ten years of your life locked into this hardware.” Cal State East Bay completed more than 90 percent of its data migration to the cloud before the pandemic, he said, largely due to hardware degradation and depreciation. “When the pandemic hit we didn’t think about ‘Oh, what if the power goes out?’” Hornsby noted. That has helped his organization prepare for future crises without needing to worry about catching up on the cloud.

Embrace Enterprise Architecture and Craft the Right Messaging

The CA Department of Technology’s enterprise architecture teams helped build out the organization’s playbook for all considerations with moving to the multi-cloud and to what extent. MacDonald said his organization has been very focused on building a community of partners, including outside consultants, to bolster its cloud strategy and related communications. “We didn’t want to repeat the same lessons that others have learned,” he said. “So, we looked at other departments, what their business needs are, and then shared the best practices as we moved toward the cloud.” Similarly, as Cal State East Bay increasingly adopted a cloud-based approach over the years, a growing number of staff members took notice and helped spread the word about the many upsides, Hornsby said. VMware’s Thompson noted that it’s often a cultural transformation as much as a technical one for institutions. Migrating to the multi-cloud doesn’t just benefit in-house IT departments. It also makes life easier for educators, administrative staff, marketing teams, and many others.

Put Your Faith in a Zero-Trust Security Model

Of course, with cyberthreats and data breaches steadily on the rise, it’s hard to trust even the most reputable cloud services without carefully testing them first. By applying a Zero-Trust approach to security — where all users inside and outside of an organization’s network must be continually vetted and validated for security purposes — organizations can ensure better protection and compliance. From a single point of control, for example, IT teams can view devices, monitor patch levels, and automatically enforce security policies to help ensure seamless operations. The leading IT issue for higher education remains information security, as several panelists at VMware Explore 2022 noted. Those interested in finding out more from VMware can read about the six ways a multi-cloud strategy can benefit their organizations.


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