CDT Leaders Signal Move to ‘Cloud-Smart’

By Published On: May 27, 2021

In two separate interviews this week, executives at the California Department of Technology spoke publicly in support of a more moderate, or hybrid approach to cloud computing for California, backing away from “cloud-first” policies of the past.

In a conversation between CDT Chief Technology Officer Liana Bailey-Crimmins and VP of Government Solutions at Direct Technology Davood Ghods on Ghods’ podcast Davood for Thought, Bailey-Crimmins challenged conventional wisdom when it comes to transferring computing infrastructure from on-premise to the cloud.

Bailey-Crimmins noted that California’s “cloud-first” strategy isn’t as much of a catch-all solution to infrastructure as it’s made out to be. 

“When I was at CalPERS we had over 100 cloud solutions,” Bailey-Crimmins said. “There’s just some technologies or some processes that were . . . not developed for the cloud.”

Rather than the cloud-first initiative, Bailey Crimmins noted that a hybrid between cloud and on-premise computing has emerged as a trend in the tech industry.

Bailey-Crimmins’ sentiment regarding cloud computing has been echoed elsewhere: CDT Chief Deputy Director and Deputy State CIO Russ Nichols espoused similar views on the cloud during a Bloomberg Live discussion on transforming government workspaces.

Like her colleague at CDT, Nichols expressed caution towards the “cloud-first” strategy, warning that the time and work to pull off such an initiative could offset the potential benefits. 

“A lot of organizations have gone for cloud-first or cloud-only, and it’s not always the right answer,” Nichols said. “Saying we’re going to go to a cloud provider because that’s the best solution is only part of the answer. If it takes 18 months to get there because of budget cycles or bureaucracy and project approvals and things like that, you’re losing some of the efficiency of going to that platform that already exists.”

As a distributed workforce raises questions regarding cloud computing, CDT leaders are making it clear that “all-in” isn’t the only way to go.

The federal government first introduced the concept of cloud-first during the Obama Administration as a way to modernize infrastructure and move beyond early security concerns about cloud computing.  Governor Gavin Newsom supported the policy and advocated for California to become a cloud-first state when he was serving as Lt. Governor.  In 2018 under the Trump Administration, the federal government shifted emphasis from cloud-first to “cloud-smart” as an interdisciplinary approach to IT modernization that includes security, procurement, and workforce.

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org