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Today’s IT landscape is complex. Public sector agencies have access to a wide variety of of solutions to support their IT infrastructure needs from an even wider pool of service providers – from colocation and traditional managed hosting services to private, public or managed cloud deployments.

But in all of this IT clutter, how can agencies decide which solution is right for their unique mission needs. Or, more simply, how one solution differs from the other?

Let’s take a look at a few of the more popular solutions and the pros and cons behind each:

Traditional Managed Hosting

Traditional managed hosting services provide agencies with an IT provisioning model in which they can lease dedicated hardware (servers, storage, etc.) or capacity on shared hardware to deploy and run their applications. All of the equipment is hosted within the service provider’s facility and is also managed on behalf of the agency by that service provider. Provisioning activities, requests for modifications and configuration changes are typically submitted to the service provider by designated agency contacts through a ticketing system or via a customer service helpdesk, and are executed on behalf of the end-user by the service provider’s technical staff.

Multi-Tenant Cloud Solutions

In contrast, multi-tenant (or public) cloud solutions offer on-demand self-service. According to the definition of cloud computing offered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), on-demand self-service means “a consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.”

Typically, a multi-tenant Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud platform provides agencies with access to a virtualized environment comprised of compute, memory, storage, and bandwidth as pool of dedicated, configurable resources (i.e. “Reservation Pools”) or as pre-defined instance types. Reservation pools allow administrators to configure a variety of virtual machine types from their pool of resources based upon their specific workload requirements. Pre-defined instance types are often offered in a variety of preconfigured sizes, with some instances optimized for particular types of workloads. With most multi-cloud platforms, the service provider manages all aspects of the underlying cloud infrastructure – up to and including the hypervisor. Configuration of virtual machines with operating systems and higher-level services/functions is often left for the customer to provision and manage on their own.

Managed Cloud

With a managed cloud solution, agencies retain the ability to realize all of the benefits of the cloud as defined by NIST (i.e. Broad Network Access, Resource Pooling, Rapid Elasticity, and Measured Service ), while also continuing to leverage the service provider’s technical staff for tasks related to provisioning, configuration, modifications, and on-going day-to-day management. Additional managed services can be included to provide a comprehensive cloud service offering encompassing a variety of areas including operating system (O/S) management, patching, anti-virus protections, monitoring, anti-DDoS services, intrusion detection services, log management, backups, and disaster recovery services.

Choosing the Right Solution for Your Agency

While on-demand self-service is one key feature driving agencies toward multi-tenant cloud solutions, recent solicitations from several state and federal agencies seem to indicate that the public sector is increasingly looking to leverage the best of both worlds through the use of managed cloud solutions.

If your agency is looking for a managed cloud solution, here are some key questions to consider:

1. Who is delivering the day-to-day managed service?

• While some service providers are developing in-house capabilities to deliver these services, others rely on partnerships with Systems Integrators and other technology partners to deliver the day-to-day managed services capabilities on top of their cloud infrastructure.

2. How are the services being supported?

• If multiple parties are involved, determine clear lines of responsibility for on-going support activities. Is there a single point-of-contact defined to resolve all support issues? Be sure to determine whether the defined support model works for your agency.

3. What does the acquisition look like?

• Ensure that there is an appropriate contract vehicle to acquire the full range of services that your agency needs including the cloud infrastructure and the managed services. If there is no agency-specific contract for acquiring the services, determine whether you can leverage a GSA Schedule 70 or other Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC).

Interested in learning more about how a managed cloud solution can benefit for your agency? QTS has partnered with Comstor to become a key supplier of FedRAMP-compliant cloud solutions to the Federal Government. QTS Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud solutions are available to Federal agency customers seeking budget flexibility, while maximizing the benefits of cloud services including on-demand provisioning, scalability and flexibility. The QTS Federal Cloud achieved FedRAMP compliance in December 2014 and is built upon best-of-breed technologies from Cisco, EMC and VMWare.

To learn more, click here.