Responding to disasters: Government and the cloud

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We’ve all heard and seen the stories in the media on natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, flooding in the Midwest, fires in California and Oregon, Hurricane Katrina and more. Recovery efforts from these disasters and others have highlighted the need for cloud technology in times of need.

Disaster recovery and cloudWhen Hurricane Rita hit Houston in 2005, there was a sudden need to register people who were admitted to the temporary shelter in the Houston Astrodome.

When deadly storms and flooding hit southern Indiana in 2008, there was a need to register a large number of people for benefits and assistance quickly.

Each of these situations required that the impacted agencies develop new solutions or to scale existing solutions to accommodate the large number of people impacted by the crisis.

However, we all know that government agencies are being asked to do more with less. There is increasing pressure for these agencies to deliver more capabilities. And when disaster strikes, these agencies must scale existing services to support the additional load.

So, how can these agencies prepare themselves to respond? How do they build an organization and capabilities to deliver more nimbly and with solutions that can scale to support increased demand?

The answer is simple—at least it seems that way to me.  Adopt a cloud computing strategy and look at how it can help meet these demands.

Develop a cloud strategy to:

• Embrace DevOps principles, adopt agile development methods and adopt platform as a service (PaaS) using platforms such as Codename: BlueMix.
• Leverage infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings available through public cloud providers like SoftLayer, an IBM company.

How can government agencies respond quickly to these demands?

By taking advantage of DevOps and agile development, these agencies can develop and deliver solutions more quickly.

DevOps brings together the functions of development and operations to deliver solutions that can satisfy functional requirements but also nonfunctional requirements such as scalability, availability and adaptability.

An agile development methodology is needed to drive rapid development. This requires users and businesses working collaboratively to develop solutions and includes methods and processes to define requirements and iterate during the build phase to more quickly deliver solutions. It is based on principles such as continuous integration and continuous testing to allow solutions to be built and tested more uniformly and quickly.

Leveraging agile development and DevOps principles is not enough, though. Adopting PaaS offerings available in BlueMix allow developers to quickly assemble applications use pre-existing components to build applications. If you need an application server or a database, you pick it; if you need it to scale, you select how many instances of the application server you might need. Drop in the code you need to drive the application and you are ready to deploy.
It’s that simple.

How can these solutions be scaled to support the demand?

The demand for the solutions and services needed to support a crisis is typically unknown and ever changing. This unknown demand requires that an agile infrastructure based on IaaS capabilities be used. The importance of being able to quickly provision and upgrade infrastructure as you have the need can’t be overstated.

SoftLayer offers a large selection of infrastructure options, all accessible and available from the SoftLayer portal, to give you choices in how you build your infrastructure. Whether it be public cloud, or in the case of workloads managing sensitive or regulated data, private cloud or bare metal servers, you have options to choose from in selecting the infrastructure you want to use to host your solution. And all of this IaaS can is available through the SoftLayer application programming interface (API). Through the SoftLayer API, you can automate the provisioning and configuring of hardware. You can monitor your infrastructure and add additional infrastructure as needed to support additional workload.

What are your thoughts?  What do you see as the future of government as a service?  Comment below or connect with me on Twitter @FRBauerle.

APS Cloud Delivery/SaaS Enablement

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