Cloud computing exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic as state and local entities went virtual and focused on the delivery of digital services, but seven years ago when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided to shift to the cloud there was hesitancy, the state’s technology lead said.

At the inception of the idea, the state’s IT team ran an analysis across all their various data centers and found them in various conditions – from unfit data centers to data centers in need of significant upgrades.

“The next and most obvious step was to consolidate these data centers so that we could better optimize our data and applications we had on hand. The solution: cloud,” William ‘Bill’ Cole, the chief technology officer (CTO) for Mass., said during an event organized by GovExec and NetApp on May 23.

Cloud, Cole added, is the future.

“We realized that with the cloud there was much more agility and scalability. That flexibility, ease, and speed of deployment which we were struggling with using on-prem data centers were now all there at our fingertips with the cloud,” Cole said.

An essential key element to making cloud functional for their workforce, Cole explained, is collaboration – that human element is critical.

The shift to the cloud has been rapidly growing among state and local governments today, but seven years ago government employees were hesitant about that shift to what at the time was considered a novel idea.

“Cloud was a scary idea and, we were met with resistance from all angles,” Cole said. “We knew we had to spend a lot of time convincing not just our leaders but every member of our government enterprise.”

One of the main concerns and causes for hesitancy in moving to the cloud was infrastructure and data security. According to Cole, his hesitant colleagues argued that it was easier to protect and defend a brick-and-mortar infrastructure than a digital one. The solution to this hesitancy was training and communicating clearly with every individual in their enterprise.

“So, we spent a lot of time educating, training, and communicating with our workforce to ensure a smooth migration,” Cole said.

Additionally, the state’s initial migration strategy was a lift and shift approach. To go “fast and furious” and get all critical applications out of the on-prem data centers and onto the cloud.

“But we soon realized we needed to adopt a lift and optimize approach instead,” he added.

A ‘lift and optimize’ approach automates the migration and translation of complex applications and allows the organization to get quality and trusted data into the hands of those who need it, Cole explained.

“That lift and shift approach was at the time a quick fix, but we soon came to realize that the optimization approach proved much more effective because it radically shortens the time to value and enables transformation as you migrate,” Cole said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.