Editor’s note: Just a few years ago, Texas state government IT administrators faced a challenge. Administrators wanted to improve management and control of their virtual resources provisioned in the cloud. Texas needed a solution that could plan cloud IT services, control provisioning, and manage costs in the cloud specific to government IT needs.
A solution of this type had never existed, but Mohammed Farooq, then CTO for the Texas Health and Services Agency (a $4 billion state government IT organization), developed a dynamic web-based cloud brokerage portal for the state of Texas to plan, procure and manage IT services across providers. This technology gave Texas the ability to simulate cross-provider provisioning, and estimate cost prior to deployment. The solution (now known as Gravitant’s cloudMatrix platform) aimed to maximize the opportunity for government agencies to leverage cloud computing for improved government efficiency.

Below are the views of Mohammed Farooq.

The demands on government agencies have never been greater. They have to deliver quality service to the public in spite of budget cuts and unexpected shifts in demand for their services. Some examples of unexpected shifts include policy changes, such as the Healthcare Initiative, or a disaster, such as a flood or tornado.

At the state of Texas, many agencies have figured out how to easily meet dramatically scaled and unpredictable demand without extra costs. In fact they have been able to cut IT project costs by 30 to 50 percent. How did they do this? By adopting a Cloud Services Brokerage platform. This platform has been so successful over the last couple of years that it is now being extended to all 260 agencies in the state of Texas.

Why a Cloud Services Brokerage? Well, though cloud computing has much promise, it also has many complexities and pitfalls, if not done correctly. The results: higher costs, slower response and failed projects. Indeed, the U.S. government has had a “Cloud First” mandate since 2011, but actual realization of this goal has been slow, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Some reasons for the slow implementation include lack of skills, guidance, tools, security and the need for new processes (such as cloud procurement). Go here to view the GAO report.

An effective way to cut through the complexity and navigate the pitfalls is to use a cloud services brokerage platform to acquaint and familiarize agency staffers to the cloud.

A Cloud Services Brokerage platform allows for the easy onboarding and management of cloud computing resources. The platform integrates multiple cloud provider services (internal or external) into a catalog and provisioning portal so enterprises can optimize the consumption of cloud services. The platform streamlines the assessment, design, procurement, provisioning and real-time governance of solutions across public and private cloud environments.

The Department of Information Resources in the state government of Texas as well as commercial organizations like General Dynamics IT and NJVC have used this cloud services brokerage, powered by Gravitant, to deliver the most value out of cloud computing in a practical manner for their customers/users.

The benefit a cloud services brokerage provides in being able to reduce IT costs yet increase agility will benefit U.S. government and state agencies grappling with budget cuts such as the “sequestration” initiative. Government agencies now have a roadmap and a tool-set to enable them to easier onboard to and use cloud computing using the state of Texas example. 

The federal General Services Administration (GSA) has taken the lead in evaluating the use of cloud service brokerages by the U.S. government. Recently, the GSA released an RFQ for a pilot program to evaluate cloud service brokers for use by U.S. government agencies. This closely watched pilot will help agencies understand the benefits of cloud service brokerages, and I expect this will truly help the government realize the vision of the Cloud First initiative.

Mohammed Farooq is CEO and founder of Gravitant.

Here is a video that describes Gravitant’s Cloud Services Brokerage and management platform, cloudMatrix.