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Culture, training make cloud migration 'a struggle' for DOD

To take advantage of data analytics, Defense Department agencies are preparing their IT staff to move to the cloud.

But between a skills gap and a stubborn culture, cloud migration has been "a struggle, I'll be honest," Mario Roberts, Army cybersecurity chief for the Office Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence (G2), said. 

Cloud migration skills are "new, so we don't have the folks with the right mentality, the right skillsets to do it," Roberts said. 

To compensate, he's been sending IT staff for training and certifications so they can understand how platforms and applications work differently in the cloud environment, he said following a panel on technologies and policies for securing hybrid clouds at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology's winter summit on Jan. 29.

"The Army doesn't have an [military occupational speciality] for cloud. The Air Force doesn't have skillset for cloud. You're an IT guy and you do router switches, there's no cloud guy," Roberts said.

In addition to training, Roberts said the cultural change or "mind shift" has been a challenge in the migration.

"It's a mind shift ,and folks can't quite yet get around that. They want to go back and see blinking lights,  and our blinking lights aren't back there, they're 5,000 miles away in a different facility," he said.

For 2018, Roberts said he hopes to shrink the Army's data center footprint by moving some administrative applications, including those for human resources and identity management, to the cloud.

The goal, he said, is to "figure out what we have, what we need to divest and what we can move to the cloud."

"For the folks who manage [the cloud migration], the engineers, it's hard. For folks who are managers and executives, they want it done like now," said Roberts, who anticipated the roles would be reversed.

But it's not that simple, he said, and there's more to cloud migration than promised cost-savings and increased capabilities.

"Going to the cloud is not as easy as your iPod at your house. It's a lot closer to the backend of that," he said jokingly. "I have to go back and rewrite some code and rewrite some applications to make it work in the cloud."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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