An Introduction to cloud.gov for Product Managers

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As government agencies move to the cloud, government product managers are figuring out how to migrate their sites and applications to a cloud environment that is secure, safe, and compliant. Product managers need to understand their agencies’ needs and how cloud providers best support those needs. Cloud.gov is specifically designed to get government agencies onto the cloud by providing better security and faster compliance so that your team can focus on developing applications.

Why should your team use cloud.gov?

Cloud.gov makes doing the right thing the easiest path. It provides better security, faster compliance and makes life easier for your team.

How do you know if cloud.gov is a good fit for your team?

Cloud.gov is intended for agencies that work with Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) low and moderate environments. In addition, cloud.gov is a good solution for teams that are focused on developing and deploying web apps quickly, need to quickly access and procure cloud services, and/or don’t have the resources to manage security and compliance themselves.

How is the ATO process simplified by using cloud.gov?

Cloud.gov has a FedRAMP ATO (Authority to Operate), so if you use cloud.gov, then you leverage the requirements and controls that have been implemented and documented as part of cloud.gov’s ATO. An ATO is required for a cloud-based product or service to go into production. An agency still needs to do their own ATO but the process is greatly simplified by using cloud.gov. Specifically, out of cloud.gov’s 300+ controls, the customer is responsible for a small fraction, and cloud.gov takes care of the rest.

In addition, an ATO can take months to complete and requires significant investment and expertise. Government agencies that don’t use cloud.gov are responsible for creating, documenting, owning and managing technology, governance, processes, and security plans. Most teams don’t have the capacity and resources for building and continuously updating business rules. In contrast, cloud.gov takes care of all these responsibilities.

How is cloud.gov different from Infrastructure as a Service?

First, cloud.gov is built on top of infrastructure as a service (IaaS). This means that cloud.gov provides a higher level of abstraction so that teams can focus on application development. If a team uses IaaS directly, they are responsible for all of the operations and services. IaaS account management tools are extremely powerful but also enormously complex—agencies that use IaaS directly are responsible for establishing policies and procedures in a safe and compliant manner.

How do different teams within the same agency share an account & split costs?

We recommend an enterprise account. It offers a single point of contact at an agency that coordinates and administers the enterprise account amongst the different teams at the agency. An enterprise account requires only one interagency agreement rather than individual IAAs for each team within an agency.

How does an account go from prototyping to enterprise?

Moving from a prototyping account to an enterprise account is driven by the needs of the customer. Cloud.gov may not be the right fit for all customers. For some agencies, cloud.gov fits into a broader strategy for that agency, so an enterprise account makes sense. Enterprise accounts are a good fit for agencies with multiple teams using cloud.gov and who want to streamline their accounts.

Is memory billed as a quota or usage?

Memory is billed as a quota. The cost is $130 per GB of memory reserved per month. Customers set their quotas to control their costs and avoid over-provisioning resources. The costs cover cloud.gov’s cost to run the platform and no more.

How does a team’s day to day look different if they’re using cloud.gov?

The biggest difference is that the team can focus on application development rather than administrative and operational requirements such as compliance, security, and provisioning. By using cloud.gov, the teams no longer need to procure new hardware (metal or virtual). They can also leverage cloud.gov’s FedRAMP ATO, which allows applications to inherit the compliance work directly from the platform and simplify their ATO.

Developers have access to a marketplace of FedRAMP-compliant services. For example, a developer can provision a database without having to worry about how to create, manage, operate, and secure that service from scratch. Teams can use custom domains, through a content delivery network (CDN) or your app. Also, cloud.gov makes running applications easy for developers by ensuring that an app keeps running once it’s deployed. Applications can be scaled up and down. The platform is continuously patched, bringing built-in compliance, security, and efficiency.

What skills do you need to use cloud.gov?

Someone will need to be an org manager to manage user roles and the spaces; this can be anyone on the team. It’s helpful for developers to have basic command line interface (CLI) skills, but cloud.gov also offers a GUI (graphical user interface) for customers who aren’t comfortable using a CLI.

Who are the primary users?

At the team level, the biggest users of cloud.gov are application developers. Federalist users also leverage the cloud.gov platform. Approximately 50 government agencies are cloud.gov customers, and most of these accounts are for production environments.

If you’re interested in learning more about cloud.gov, please contact inquiries@cloud.gov or sign up for a free sandbox account to give cloud.gov a try.