Cloud computing isn’t just about technology – it is about transformation, leadership and change. When it comes to government IT, cloud is typically 80% of the discussion, but only 20% of the budget.

With the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) 18-month “Cloud First” deadline passing in June and the federal government hoping to accredit three cloud service providers under FedRAMP by the end of 2012, cloud computing is at the forefront of government IT.

While the technology is certainly leading the discussion around the proverbial water cooler, now is the time for agencies to address their adoption challenges and find cost-effective ways to overcome them.

“Cloud First” requires agencies to evaluate secure cloud computing alternatives before making any new investments in IT. There are a multitude of challenges to consider in moving to cloud architecture, including upfront costs, the complexity of data transfer and differences with legacy infrastructure.

Vendors also have a role in helping to overcome these challenges. Specifically, vendors need to:

  • Provide pay-as-you-go or alternative IT acquisition models – Making cloud accessible for all agencies requires aligning with their budget requirements.
  • Shorten IT procurement processes and reduce upfront IT investments – FedRAMP-certified third party assessment organizations (3PAOs) can help significantly expedite the cloud procurement processes. The “do once, use many times” framework will help make upfront investments manageable, while also shifting the focus from upfront costs to total cost of ownership.
  • Maximize utilization by matching agency demand with available capacity – Vendors need to examine the best way to meet specific agency needs in order to become a trusted partner. Currently, few public cloud computing solutions promise better than “three nines” availability in their agreements. This means that a typical government user can expect almost nine hours of downtime a year.
  • Improve ability to scale and respond to changing workloads – Big Data is considered the new IT frontier for a reason: the amount of data that agencies need to handle daily is increasing significantly. This makes it critically important for providers to plan ahead and adjust to changes in demand.
  • Assist with evaluation of legacy technologies – Many agencies are using a combination of resources and systems and it is important to strive to utilize existing IT investments as much as possible.

Cloud architecture, if implemented and managed properly, is the most efficient and effective roadmap to running IT on top of a fully distributed infrastructure.

Cloud technologies, meanwhile, can create democratization of IT infrastructure and the beginnings of a renaissance where customers make IT decisions based on price performance, best capabilities and business “fit.”

Yes, it’s important to keep moving forward with the IT revolution. But as history has shown, it isn’t about the technology. Focus on the transformation, leadership and change; and absolutely keep it in the conversation. It takes more than talk to change IT infrastructure. Research and find a trusted partner and then move ahead!

Anthony Robbins is vice president at Brocade, responsible for leading Brocade’s sales effort to the U.S. Department of Defense, civilian agencies, and the intelligence community. He previously served in senior public sector management roles at Oracle and Sun Microsystems, Inc.