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U.S. Military IT Leaders Explore Shift to Cloud Services

The U.S. Government Department of Defense (DoD) agencies would like to move 57 percent of their IT applications to the cloud by 2020, but believe that current budget allocation will allow just 24 percent of workloads to make the transition.

This latest market study by MeriTalk surveyed 150 Federal IT professionals from DoD and American military intelligence agencies to examine where they stand in their move to a cloud services model -- by either migrating legacy software applications to the cloud, or by developing new cloud-native applications.

The advantages of open source cloud computing for these government IT users are apparently understood. Eighty-seven percent of the survey respondents cite improved agility, budget savings, and saved time as the top cloud benefits -- but the preferred approach to reach their IT objectives are split.

To date, 57 percent of the DoD current cloud applications have been migrated from legacy software applications, while 43 percent have been designed and purpose-built for deployment on cloud infrastructure.

But looking to the future, according to the MeriTalk assessment, a far greater number of DoD and military intelligence IT professionals (52 percent) believe that building new cloud-native apps is a smarter long-term move -- versus just 18 percent that favor migrating legacy software apps.

Agencies typically consider a series of factors when deciding on a cloud-based approach for a particular software 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 at 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."

While agencies see big benefits to building new open source cloud-native apps -- citing security (56 percent), deployment speed (51 percent), and opportunity to reduce redundancies (48 percent) as the top advantages -- they face many 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 perceived drawbacks to pursuing a progressive IT approach.

In addition, MeriTalk says that it's sometimes necessary to migrate a legacy software application, instead of building new cloud-native apps due to security concerns or a need to maintain a specific data structure.

Agencies are more likely to migrate legacy software applications that they have heavily invested in, that are custom-built to support an agency mission, and/or that are highly specialized. They are more likely to build new for applications that are continually evolving, have high maintenance costs, and/or require 99.999% availability.

Interestingly, the resistance to change their IT strategy doesn't come from the leadership. DoD IT managers are more likely to recommend developing new cloud-native software applications than their internal technical staff.

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