Ed Toner, CIO

Blog:We Moved Enterprise Apps to the Cloud?

Each week, we review our top 20 projects with the Project Management Office (PMO), and we’ve moved the majority of our services to the cloud and are continuing to do so. We did not plan to move so many applications to the cloud. There was no cloud focus group, no mandate, no legacy issues to overcome. We simply acted on the opportunity when we saw value for our customers. That value proposition included the appropriate security, increased efficiency and automation, lower administration costs, opportunity for additional functionality, and overall storage cost reductions.

When the Return on Investment (ROI) is present, the architecture is appropriate and secure, and a strong business case could be made, we executed. We were not in a hurry. We took the necessary precautions and did the research. The main concern was ensuring we make the journey successfully. We have multiple SAAS applications in the cloud, but moving Enterprise level applications to the cloud has its own unique challenges, and sufficient planning is necessary. We were and we currently are being very methodic in our approach. Eyes wide open, investigating any possible roadblocks, consciously moving forward. Identifying the appropriate strategic partners and vendors to assist with our migration project. Fully aware that nothing is as easy as it may appear. Mapping our applications, hardware and knowing the interdependencies before we initiated any project.


I wrote about the hyped predictions of rapid shifts to the cloud and the death of the data center in my blog titled "The Truth About Predictions”". In it, I cautioned against getting caught up in the hype of new technologies and expressed the need to provide a pathway and guidance to cloud adoption only in situations where the cloud environment is appropriate and effective. The OCIO has provided a pathway to cloud adoption in situations where the cloud environment is appropriate. However, not all applications are appropriate for either the commercial or government cloud options we utilize. Standard criteria must be taken into consideration. We established the OCIO Cloud Review Board which provides the governance, reviews policy, standardizes, and maintains multiple cloud services utilized by state agencies. We developed a cloud strategy driven by our business objectives. To my surprise, this methodical approach has landed us where we are today. Much more cloud based than I would have predicted.

Replatforming was our strategy of choice, moving applications to the cloud with minor changes, but taking advantage of benefits of the cloud environment which include tools for development, automation, and management of cloud resources. We found this approach to be the most cost effective, and so far, it has not required a major development project. Replatforming allowed us to move workloads to the cloud, research and take advantage of the new functionality present in the cloud environment, learn lessons, and then move on to the next migration.

This cloud strategy will almost certainly need to include the hybrid approach of connecting some current on-prem systems with the newly introduced cloud if we expand to Agency-specific applications. Plans must be fully developed prior to the move to ensure efficient operation long-term in this hybrid environment, with the possible ultimate end game being a full incremental migration of Agency-specific legacy systems. We must ensure a smooth conversion to modern technology only after committing the resources and operational oversight needed for stabilization and maintenance of the current systems, utilizing the knowledge we gained from our own path to the cloud.

Moving Enterprise applications to the cloud assists in our mission, “Respect for the Taxpayers of Nebraska,” reducing costs while providing enhanced capabilities for delivery of services. Our goal is not to eliminate staff, but rather to retrain our existing positions to understand and enhance their skills by learning the cloud equivalent. That will allow all of us to focus more on innovation and improvements to virtual infrastructure and networking instead of purchasing physical infrastructure and setting that up in the data centers. We still manage and maintain all of our data. Giving up control of the infrastructure allows us to focus on assisting our customers and more efficiently store and utilize their data on Enterprise Applications.

As always, I appreciate your efforts to provide quality services to the State and the Citizens of Nebraska!

Ed Toner