This interview with Dave Catanoso, Director, Enterprise Cloud Solutions Office (ECSO) at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, spotlights VA’s incredible journey to the Cloud over the past three years, acceleration in the midst of the pandemic, and what comes next for the Agency.
An Unusual Start
Most organizations beginning their Cloud journey will follow recommendations to start small in order to gain traction and measure success. Taking into account some key business requirements within the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2018, when we began this journey, we did exactly the opposite, instead moving two of our largest and most missioncritical applications first.
Moving the Veterans Benefits Management System and the Identity Access Management system to our Cloud, the VA Enterprise Cloud (VAEC), we encountered challenges, as was expected, but we also built an incredible degree of confidence within our teams around what was possible. Any talk that this was something we would not be able to achieve was quickly defeated, and we were able to create a lot of forward movement.
Today, we have 130 applications in production in the Cloud and another 90 that are in flight and migrating to the Cloud as we speak. What our teams quickly came to realize is that the Cloud represents a landing area of common tools and services that allows them to leverage what is there so they can really focus on the functionality and delivering better service to Veterans, and they can get up and running and achieve an authority to operate at a speed they never thought possible.
The success of each forward step varies by application, but we’re seeing common threads of better performance, expedited processes, increased reliability, and reduced costs.
The COVID Push
March of 2020 brought the unimaginable and, with it, a surge in demand for remote work and telehealth. We had to move 200,000 employees to telework and at the same time expand telemedicine to be able to provide a safe working environment for clinicians and a safe Healthcare option for Veterans.
Prior to COVID we were seeing 25,000 telehealth visits per month. Using the Cloud to duplicate and expand on existing environments, we now can support 45,000 telemedicine visits daily.
Having built the capacity we needed and responded to the crisis at hand, now we are in a position to focus on the maturity of our modernization efforts. In some areas, we have very advanced efforts underway; in other areas, our initial action was more of a lift-and-shift to be able to take advantage of basic Cloud capability.
Over the coming months and years, our focus will be on maturing as an organization, solidifying the technology, and taking more advantage of the Cloud-native technologies available: moving to containerization, to becoming serverless, to improving automation and monitoring; taking more advantage of SaaS and other similar opportunities.
People at the Heart
Our mission is serving the Veteran and the Veteran community. Just as our mission is people, our success is also founded in people. The Cloud allows us to focus our efforts on delivering better service to Veterans and faster, and it allows us to trial and move forward with innovation more rapidly. None of this, though, would be possible without the people – the contractors, our partners, our network team, those within VA OIT. Our jobs may change as our processes evolve and as we move forward, but the people and the commitment they bring remains focused and enduring.
About Dave Catanoso
Dave Catanoso has over 25 years of experience in fields ranging from database development to enterprise architecture design and enterprise cloud solutions, contributing to a solid track record of success, culminating in the overall growth of multiple technology initiatives. Dave led a crossorganizational team over three years to design and implement the VA Enterprise Cloud (VAEC), capable of hosting most of the VA’s applications. The VAEC is designed to be controlled by VA and to accommodate all applications up to and including the FedRAMP High security level. He currently serves as Director for the Enterprise Cloud Solutions Office (ECSO) at the Department of Veterans Affairs. ECSO enables the leveraging of Cloud solutions by internal and external customers and ultimately Veterans by providing standardization and common services. ECSO supports the efficient migration to and utilization of Cloud technology by project teams/business sponsors and their customers.