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Why Federal Agencies Benefit from Azure

20 Apr 2016 by Jessica Hall

Offering world-class privacy, compliance and security capabilities at a low cost, Microsoft® Azure™ provides many benefits to federal agencies. While this sector has been migrating to the cloud at a slower pace than the private sector, this is beginning to change. David Mayer, vice president of product management for software at Insight, says that many federal agencies are making the transition to the cloud. However, he adds, “The federal government has a number of certifications that a provider has to go through, apply for and get certified on in order for the government to even be allowed to use it.”

Because Azure doesn’t have to be used in place of your existing infrastructure, it can be used to take advantage of a hybrid cloud. With many data centers now employing a hybrid infrastructure, it’s important that you take emerging trends and related considerations into account before making a decision within your federal agency.

Take this step first.

Don’t dive into considerations related to business process and cost right away. “The initial step is to determine if a provider or service is even certified to the point where a government organization would be allowed to use it, period,” recommends Mayer.

With government agencies beginning to migrate to the cloud, providers are taking the necessary actions to ensure their applications are approved for the public sector. Mayer adds, “You’re starting to see AWS has been certified for most federal agencies. Microsoft Azure was a little bit ahead of them — I believe they’re now certified for all public agencies.”

Choosing between Azure and AWS.

Built on the same technology as Microsoft’s software stack, Azure offers familiarity to many developers and IT professionals. The cloud-computing platform can also be used to run versions of Linux® and host non-Microsoft-based applications, providing agencies with the flexibility to meet their unique needs. Mayer points out that Azure meets many regulatory and security requirements, and still allows your agency to use its existing management tools.

On the other hand, AWS is an end-to-end, self-contained offering. Without existing software to influence its infrastructure, everything has to be compatible with their solution, allowing you to run your entire IT environment in the cloud. “…You’re providing all of your IT infrastructure, directory, security information and networking information — everything about your IT organization — to Amazon,” cautions Mayer. Organizations will need to make their own decision as to if they are comfortable with the provider having that information or not.

Understand the benefits and costs.

Microsoft is committed to meeting rigorous requirements and government policies. Azure Activity Directory® combines application access, directory services, identity management and security to offer features like centralized infrastructure administration, robust authentication and single sign-on. It reduces the bewilderment and inefficiency that can spur from the management of multiple accounts and executing manual processes. In many cases, Azure’s superior architecture also prevents applications and servers from experiencing delays.

Pay-as-you-go-services allow you to easily scale up or down, helping you expand your agency’s impact. Mayer warns that the ongoing resources required to manage these environments can decrease some of the cost savings that traditionally are associated with migrating applications to the cloud. However, he also calls attention to the fact that the cost of storage and compute are declining. He adds, “As cloud vendors scale, they are capable of delivering their service at a cheaper and cheaper cost.” With costs dwindling and capabilities expanding, it’s likely that your government agency will benefit from a move to the cloud.

Who’s here to stay?

While keeping cost in mind, it’s also important to consider which providers are also likely to remain in business within the cloud market. As reported by DataCenterKnowledge.com, telecommunications companies are now looking to part with their large data center portfolios that were used to compete in the cloud services market. Azure and AWS have gained the lion’s share of the market, and it has become harder and harder for others to compete with their offerings.

Leveraging a partnership with Microsoft that has lasted more than 25 years, Insight can help you determine if Microsoft Azure is the best solution for your federal agency. Talk to a specialist to learn more.