Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam orders state agencies to the cloud

The order requires agencies to submit cloud migration plans to the state's IT department starting this December.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (VCU CNS)
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (VCU CNS)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order Tuesday requiring the state government’s agencies to shift their information technology services to cloud-based platforms. Under the order, commonwealth offices will be tasked with developing plans to identify locally hosted IT systems that can be migrated to a cloud provider over the next few years.

“By incorporating the use of cloud technology, we can continue to make strides on modernizing the Commonwealth’s technology infrastructure and provide Virginians with the rapid and efficient delivery of government services they deserve,” Northam said in a press release.

In moving the state’s IT functions to cloud-based systems, Northam’s administration is looking to speed up delivery of business solutions, reduce its operational costs and maintenance requirements, while adding a layer of resiliency against disasters and service outages.

The order puts the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, or VITA, in charge of collecting and overseeing fellow agencies migration plans. By Dec. 1, the order reads, every state office will be required to evaluate which of its systems are ready to be moved to a cloud service and report back to VITA. Starting in January, agencies will be expected to identify what resources will be needed to move those systems to the cloud.


While the order has other deadlines between now and the end of Northam’s term in 2021, Virginia Chief Information Officer Nelson Moe told StateScoop there’s no set end date for the state government’s full migration to cloud providers. Moe also said there isn’t a price tag for the process yet, though the state should get a better idea when next legislative session begins in January.

But the statewide migration should be a test of VITA’s new system of servicing the state’s other agencies. Virginia recently ended a 13-year contract with Northrop Grumman, in which the defense contractor was the state’s lone provider for IT services, in favor of a new arrangement wherein VITA will choose from a multitude of vendors. (Science Applications International Corporation is taking over for Northrop acting as the state’s sole IT service provider until December, when the new system takes effect and the company will then transition to being the state’s services integrator.)

Under the multi-vendor model, Moe told StateScoop, VITA will be able to act as broker in choosing the right cloud providers as agencies move their systems off physical servers. Moe said the state already has about 70 cloud-based applications, including state employees’ email, which runs on the enterprise version of Gmail . (The state also uses other Google products, including Drive and the company’s mobile-device management service.) However the state is not wedded to a single cloud provider, he said: Virginia already relies on AWS and Microsoft Azure for different functions.

Benjamin Freed

Written by Benjamin Freed

Benjamin Freed was the managing editor of StateScoop and EdScoop, covering cybersecurity issues affecting state and local governments across the country. He wrote extensively about ransomware, election security and the federal government’s role in assisting states and cities with information security.

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