As we continue to advance in technological innovation with interconnected information systems and devices, security and privacy risks are a large part of the national conversation and topics of great importance. The significant increase in the complexity of the hardware, software, firmware, and systems within the public and private sectors represents a significant increase in attack surface that can be exploited by attackers, allowing the attacker to gain access to critical assets if left unaddressed.
There is an immediate need to strengthen the underlying information systems, component products, and services that we depend on in every sector of the critical infrastructure. Through an Executive Order, President Trump directed the creation of a report on the modernization of Federal IT. This report identified over 50 tasks that improve citizen-facing services, facilitate greater accessibility, and maintain or improve cybersecurity. Many of these tasks can be achieved through the implementation and use of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Below are three features of AWS and a discussion of how All Native Group (ANG) utilizes them to help federal government agencies establish better architecture, security, cost and change management, and achieve the executive mandate of Federal IT modernization with an emphasis on greater cybersecurity.
AWS Auto Scaling monitors your applications and automatically adjusts capacity to maintain consistent and predictable performance at the lowest possible cost. Using AWS Auto Scaling, one can easily setup application scaling for multiple resources across multiple services in minutes. AWS Auto Scaling makes scaling simple with recommendations that allow you to optimize performance, costs, or balance between them. With AWS Auto Scaling, your applications always have the right resources at the right time.
ANG implements and utilizes Auto Scaling to minimize the runtime expenses of our client agencies and help reduce their overall budgets by optimizing service runtimes, i.e. running big when it needs to be big, and reducing usage and runtime when operations can be scaled back. Significant cost savings and operational efficiencies can be gained with an architecture that is not a “one size fits all” design.
An Elastic Block Store (EBS) snapshot is a point-in-time copy of an Amazon Elastic Block Store volume. EBS snapshots are incremental, differential copies of data, meaning that only unique blocks of EBS volume data that have changed since the last EBS snapshot are stored in the next EBS snapshot. The collection of AWS snapshots contain all the information needed to restore your data starting from the creation of the first EBS snapshot. EBS snapshots are chained together as they are added, which provides an efficient backup and storage capability that also provides full data store restoration should the need arise. By using them, you will be able to properly restore your EBS volumes at any time with minimal risk of data loss due to the continuous incremental snapshots.
ANG utilizes EBS Snapshots to clone new development, conduct quality assurance and testing, and to create staging environments on the fly. Using EBS Snapshots helps to quickly set up these environments while minimizing downtime when a particular procedure does not function as expected or a test causes an unexpected data corruption. ANG helps our customers restore data on operational and development systems quickly and efficiently by using EBS Snapshots with restoration times that can be measured in minutes, not hours.
Cloud computing allows one to trade capital investments and expenses, such as data centers and system servers, for operational expenses that can be better forecasted and are more predictable, i.e. you are paying for “IT services” as opposed to IT equipment, software, and the human resources required to maintain it . Cloud computing also reduces the need for human resources that may not be germane to the core business, further reducing costs while also simplifying IT management and eliminating the need for “backend” strategic refresh planning. The overall enterprise IT costs can be reduced by taking advantage of AWS’s economies of scale – AWS has the ability to scale up or down much more quickly than a typical enterprise and the costs of doing either will be much lower than what you would pay to do it in-house or “on prem”. The suite of services and capabilities offered by AWS has the potential to save our customers significant money while improving service and security.
ANG recognizes that almost all U.S. Government agencies have plans to move to the cloud in some way in the near and foreseeable future. ANG is already working with many federal agencies to help them plan, design, implement and/or transition to the cloud. These efforts will only increase with time as the flexibility, security, and cost savings are realized by early adopters in the federal IT space. ANG is excited to play a role in helping to modernize federal IT utilizing the emerging cloud services and systems as described above and we look forward to helping our federal government partners even more in the future.
John Watson, Program Manager / IT Operations Manager
All Native Link, on assignment with: Federal Occupational Health, Program Support Center, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Michael Olsen, Director – IT Service
All Native Group