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Government IT Modernization Compels the Question: Where Should Workloads Live?

There is a micro-economy in the Washington D.C. area, comprised of a wide variety of industries and driven by a “digital community” of managed and professional service providers contracting to government agencies and sub-agencies. 

Just like companies in the private sector, public sector entities are moving from a cloud-first strategy to hybrid IT. They are reevaluating their cloud and network infrastructure to reach optimal levels of agility, scalability, performance and interoperability – while also reducing cost. A tall order. On top of that, the risk tolerance for most federal agencies, and consequently the service provider engaged in a given project, is exceptionally low. That adds a critical requirement into the decision process. 

Repatriation has given rise to a technology and operational discipline: FinOps, short for financial operations management. The 2021 State of the Data Center Report by AFCOM defines FinOps with this remark: “In this profession, people leverage tools and new methodologies to monitor, measure, and mitigate the costs and value delivered from the cloud.” ¹

With these and any specific use-case requirements in mind, the conflict to be resolved with each workload is – should it stay on-premises, in the public cloud with a CSP, or be deployed in a data center? 

Ways Colocation Can Help with Repatriation

When the U.S. government announced the “cloud-first” policy in 2011, the number of federal data centers had grown to more than 2,000. The emerging public cloud option (e.g., AWS, which launched in 2006) as well as software as a service (SaaS) promised an opportunity to move Big Data and workloads into more cost-effective environments. The problem is that the Big Data of 2006 has grown into INCREDIBLY BIG DATA, and the egress fees skyrocketed in parallel. 

CoreSite’s Washington D.C. data centers help solve that problem by offering direct cloud access to all major cloud providers. Private interconnectivity to AWS, IBM Cloud, Azure, Google Cloud and Oracle enable data transfer at 60-70 percent lower costs, over a private connection.²  As for applications, our data centers offer always-on reliability, enterprise-to-edge connectivity and consistent user experience, with lower total cost of operation (TCO).

Security: De-risking Involves Technology and Compliance

I touched on the sensitivity to risk earlier. Security takes different forms for many of our D.C.-area clients. First, there is cybersecurity. While public cloud security is excellent and economic, private cloud providers today can implement state-of-the-art data and network protection solutions as part of a defense-in-depth strategy. For example, CoreSite best practices include advanced endpoint protection, offline backups, least privileges, network segregation and threat monitoring.

Much like determining where workloads are best deployed in a multi-cloud infrastructure, whether the visibility and control gained through private cloud (on-premises or collocated) is worth the cost is a decision each enterprise or agency needs to make according to their risk tolerance. That applies to software as well. Earlier this year, I saw an article in TechTarget weighing the pros and cons of private and public cloud security that pointed to governance inconsistency as a potential downfall: “Because of the policy enforcement issues, some applications and data may not be as secure as others.”³

Trust in the data center provider is another critical element in the decision. Highly risk-averse organizations need to be confident that they are in a relationship with a stable, experienced partner that will be able to deliver the security they need, long-term. Compliance certifications are a critical element of that security. In particular, it’s essential that NIST 800-53 mandates are addressed, as they serve as the foundation for Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) compliance. I would be happy to discuss how CoreSite can assist agencies and contractors achieve this important compliance level as well as address every nuance of security at our D.C.-area data center campus or anywhere in the country. 

Operational Flexibility Future-Proofs the Deployment

Hybrid IT is all about options and flexibility. Colocation fits perfectly into that paradigm, as does public cloud, which is critical because it’s very difficult if not impossible to project exactly what an agency or enterprise may need in terms of cloud services three or five years from now. Actually, dynamic scalability is one of the great advantages of colocation. We can revisit power and space requirements over time.  

Location is Key

There are reasons why Northern Virginia is called “Data Center Alley.” Its geographic proximity to Washington, as well as relatively cheap power, established fiber optic networks and tax incentives, make the region fertile territory for cultivating the digital community I spoke of at the start of this post. 

CoreSite’s DC1 and DC2 datacenters are even closer to the epicenter of that digital community, located in the heart of the city. Actually, DC2 is the only enterprise-class colocation data center in downtown Washington D.C. That means you have a private, scalable and cloud-adjacent hybrid infrastructure in close proximity to enterprises, government entities and financial institutions.

Another advantage for our customers is the seamless connectivity between our D.C. campus and the three data centers that make up our Reston campus, creating an even richer community of digital partners beyond public cloud providers.

Digital Modernization: Regardless of Size or Industry, We Can Help 

You will probably recognize these names – Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics – the top three government contractors. How about Booz Allen Hamilton, Cardinal Health or Oshkosh Corporation? These companies are also in the list of top government contractors and provide IT consulting, healthcare services and military vehicles, respectively, to the government.⁴

Their services are varied, but they share a common challenge: As hybrid IT continues to become the preferred infrastructure, how can each member of the digital community realize the greatest value from each workload? Where should it live?

We’re here to help you think through the decision.

Note: This blog was originally published in the first week of September 2021. It has been updated with more recent statistics on digital transformation and IT modernization.

Matt Johns | VP of Sales, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Regions
Matt is Vice President of Sales, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Regions, and has over 20 years of experience providing data center and network infrastructure solutions to enterprises and government entities.