There’s just no escaping “the cloud” when discussing federal IT. For the past three years, migrating from on premises networks to the cloud has been touted as a way to jump start federal networks and increase efficiency and productivity.

As the New Year beckons, what is the state of the federal cloud? The team at Deltek are out with a new federal market analysis, and they were kind enough to give the GovTransformer team a briefing on some of the findings.

First off, some definitions. The cloud market has diversified over the past few years. Here are the important categories:

  • Pure Cloud – Includes efforts that fall into one of the three “as-a-Service” delivery models defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These services may consist of services provided by vendors to government customers (e.g., Google email) or the hosting of government applications/data in commercial facilities and provision of the related service back to the government customer (e.g. a commercially-hosted legacy HR system provided to a government customer as a service from a commercial facility).
  • Cloud Engineering – Includes efforts that require commercial services to engineer a government application or system for delivery via one of the three NIST-defined as-a-Service delivery types.
  • Consulting – Professional services related to cloud procurement or usage by an agency, including strategy development, program management, acquisition support, brokering, and training.
  • Cloud Infrastructure – Commodity buys (servers, virtualization software, etc.) related to standing up on-premise clouds by government customers. This category has been broken out separately to reflect the fact that government customers often refer to the purchases as “cloud servers” or “cloud software.”

An area that has seen change lately is the FedRAMP front. The FedRAMP program came under pressure in 2016 to improve transparency and become more efficient. In response to industry concerns about the time and cost burdens of FedRAMP reviews, the FedRAMP PMO revised and enhanced the process to create FedRAMP 2.0.

The PMO released High Baseline Requirements in June 2016 that will allow the use of cloud for data at the high impact level. Finally, the PMO also created FedRAMP Ready, which promises to streamline the JAB review process and shorten the timeframe to less than 4 months, reducing contractor costs.

Partially due to these changes, the use of FedRAMP-compliant cloud solutions grew within the federal government. The growth was fastest among civilian agencies, rising 67 percent from FY 2014 to FY 2015.

Despite this growth, Deltek reports that civilian agency compliance with FedRAMP-compliant solutions remains low at 31% of the total number of cloud efforts/programs identified from FY 2013-2015. Of the 779 cloud efforts identified, 240 are now FedRAMP-compliant.

The number of compliant solutions in use at DoD rose as well, but remains significantly lower than the civilian sector due to lower cloud usage. But, the reduction in FedRAMP 2.0 approval time to just under four months is expected to greatly increase the number of compliant solutions available to agencies in the coming years, meaning adoption should grow as well.

So those are the definitions and the compliance picture – what about contract values? After dropping from FY 2013 to FY 2014, cloud spending increased to $2.6 billion in FY 2015. According to Deltek, simultaneously rising spending and awarded contract values indicate FY 2015 may have been a positive turning point in agency cloud adoption.

A few more cloud data points:

  • At $1.2B over three years, spending on Software-as-a-Service made up the highest percentage of agency spending overall. Spending on Infrastructure-as-a-Service came in second at $727M and PaaS third at $67M.
  • Both civilian agencies and the DoD continue to favor private cloud deployments, spending $1B over three years. Total spending on community cloud solutions came in second at $790M.
  • Modernization initiatives, both legislation and policy guidance, will ramp up pressure on agencies to adopt cloud computing. The question is will their risk appetite allow it?

Let’s hope federal IT truly has turned the corner, and the cloud reality starts to resemble the buzz. Moving to the cloud certainly isn’t a magic pill for federal IT, but it’s a vital part of modernizing government networks and making them more agile and resilient.