Cloud plays a major role in the public sector’s overarching information technology modernization and digital transformation goals. But the cloud is still relatively new in practice, and organizations are still working through how to best leverage it.
There are many instances in which the public cloud makes sense, and many instances in which it does not, according to Brad Scyrkels, vice president and general manager of Cyxtera Federal Group. ExecutiveBiz spoke with Scyrkels to find out which cloud solutions are best suited for different applications and which cloud trends are moving the GovCon market into 2023.
Read below for Brad Scyrkels’ full Executive Spotlight interview.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell me about your work at Cyxtera and how you serve the government sector.
Brad Scyrkels: “Cyxtera is a global leader in colocation and interconnection services with a footprint of more than 60 data centers in over 30 markets. We’re focused on helping our customers across the public and private sectors transform and scale their digital operations. We do this by offering the best of both worlds — the speed and scale of the cloud, coupled with the performance, reliability and cost benefits of the data center.
We have deep roots in the government sector. Our founders started Terremark, the original public cloud provider to the U.S. government. They built a fantastic business model of on-demand capabilities to serve federal customers in a manner that was sophisticated yet cost efficient. Ultimately, Terremark was acquired by Verizon, and a few years later, our founders purchased the data center business from CenturyLink (now Lumen). We effectively did again what had proven to be successful at Terremark.
Given our background — and our CEO’s (Nelson Fonseca) former role as President of Terremark Federal — we recognize the investment that needs to go into building a federal practice. This is why, as we formed Cyxtera Federal Group, we immediately sought out FedRAMP accreditation as part of the core requirements for our customers. Cyxtera is certified FedRAMP-ready at the High Impact level.
Cyxtera’s Federal Platform is an on-demand infrastructure and interconnection platform that provides the security and control of traditional colocation environments with cloud-like rapid deployment, elasticity and scalability. Our FedRAMP Ready status allows federal agencies to deploy secure private infrastructure in our data centers with the speed and flexibility of cloud.”
ExecutiveBiz: What do agencies need to consider in their infrastructure planning through the lens of ‘Cloud Smart?’
Scyrkels: “The shift from ‘Cloud First’ to ‘Cloud Smart’ gave agencies practical guidance for evaluating their applications and workloads and making optimal decisions around workload placement and deployment. There are many instances where public cloud makes perfect sense — particularly when it involves early experimentation, DevOps and seasonal workloads that burst up or down. There are many instances where it does not — such as with inelastic, resource-intensive workloads, or those that require very high levels of control and security.
At the same time, the government has placed a significant focus in recent years on data center optimization and consolidation. During the Federal Data Center Optimization Initiative (FDCOI — which sunset this year), the government closed over 6,000 data centers. Building and running data centers is expensive. Running resource-intensive workloads in the public cloud can also be expensive. We think there is an alternative path via colocation that gives agencies the best of both worlds — the control, cost and compliance benefits of dedicated private infrastructure with the speed and agility of the cloud.
We’re seeing two primary use cases. The first is that many agencies’ equipment is aging. It is not cost-effective for them to purchase and maintain new equipment in-house. A solution like Cyxtera Enterprise Bare Metal — on-demand, single-tenant infrastructure — gives agencies an agile, subscription-based model that meets Cloud Smart guidance while avoiding security and compliance issues common with public cloud.
In addition, the costs are much more predictable — we’re a firm fixed cloud, so you won’t see the massive ingress or egress charges that are common with public cloud. And, if or when an agency wants to terminate, they can do so without being stuck with a bunch of equipment they may no longer want or need.
The second use case is among federal agencies that want to take advantage of AI and machine learning capabilities via our on-demand infrastructure. We’re seeing a big demand for our AI/ML Compute as a Service, powered by NVIDIA DGX A100 systems, which allow AI/ML-powered workloads to be deployed with great agility and speed.
Cloud Smart doesn’t just mean public cloud. Federal IT leaders can obtain similar — or even better — outcomes with a hybrid Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution that meets their unique workload needs. As agencies evaluate their workloads for placement, they should consider attributes like workload function, mission criticality, utilization, growth trajectory and requirements for performance, security and capacity.”
ExecutiveBiz: In what other ways has Cyxtera been working to improve their offerings to government agencies?
Scyrkels: “Our patented Digital Exchange data center network fabric is the heart of our offering and our key differentiator. It allows our government customers to optimize and automate the way they build, operate and scale their infrastructure by providing on-demand access to a full suite of digital infrastructure and connectivity solutions. We designed our Digital Exchange with security in mind; it is FedRAMP Ready in our Northern Virginia and Denver data center locations.
Here are a few other ways in which we’re upping the ante in serving government customers:
We provide true transparency of billing. What you see is what you get. If you procure a server through our on-demand offering, whether you use 10 percent of that server or 85 percent of that server, the price is the price is the price. Whether you bring in one gigabyte of data or hundreds of gigabytes of data or egress a lot of information, the price is the price is the price. We do not charge our customers ancillary charges. There are no surprises at the end of the month when they get their bill.
We also enable our customers to get up and running quickly and securely. They can go into our Command Center interface and provision their infrastructure and services within hours, not weeks. Once provisioned, we hand over the administrative credentials to that server or series of servers, so only authorized users can access the environment.
In addition, we help our customers take care of a lot of things that, from a staffing standpoint, can be expensive and time-consuming. If you need to pull a drive, we’ll pull a drive. If you need your network re-cabled, we can do that for you. In addition, from a security standpoint, agencies can maintain more granular control over their policies by leveraging our infrastructure on-demand.
We’re also very focused on helping our federal systems integrators (FSI) partners reduce their risk. In many RFPs, there is a requirement for Day 1 readiness. This could translate into tens of millions of dollars for an FSI that must acquire data center space and stand up enough infrastructure to prove ‘Day 1’ readiness during the RFP process. If they lose the bid, they risk walking away with a data center full of equipment that needs a new home. But by leveraging Cyxtera Enterprise Bare Metal, our partners can easily demonstrate Day 1 readiness without needing to equip a data center. They can spin up or down whenever they need to.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are your predictions for federal cloud in 2023?
Scyrkels: “Government organizations love the on-demand capabilities of cloud, but current budget realities don’t support climbing public cloud costs (though, as mentioned, hyperscalers make sense for elastic workloads). And as I noted above, building and maintaining their own data centers and infrastructure has become a less attractive proposition as well. As we move into 2023 and beyond, we will see more agencies expand their hybrid infrastructure via colocation offerings that provide the agility of the cloud with the cost predictability, performance and security of the data center.
I also expect continued demand from federal customers for AI/ML. These are very complex types of workloads with a very hefty price tag, so the ability to come in and consume that in an on-demand fashion with us has been a true differentiator. Whether you use it or not immediately, you are ready for the day that you do need it. And that’s really what we’re all about at Cyxtera — helping our customers adapt to meet their mission requirements as they evolve.”