Steps going into the clouds

The next 5 years: Everything converges and rides in the cloud

The intersection of cloud infrastructures, analytics, big data, mobile and social media, delivered through a cloud broker model, will change how IT services are delivered and used by government agencies in the future.

If the Internet is an information superhighway, cloud infrastructures are multiple highways upon which all of the other disruptive technologies will ride, according to leading senior government IT managers. Agency managers will assume that services are deployed in some type of cloud; the emphasis will be on extracting value from data, CIOs say.

“The cloud will become part of the IT capability delivery model, not an adjunct discussion; so hybrid models of public/private [clouds] will be common-place,” said David McClure, associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

"The intersection of mobility and cloud ... will change everything about how services are consumed by our customers, as well as how they are delivered by IT."
--Travis Howerton, National Nuclear Security Administration

Currently, the on-demand computing model is considered a fairly new way of providing the services IT departments have been delivering over the past 30 years. However, “when you start to look three years forward, I don’t think we are going to be talking about it because there is going to be an expectation that we are already leveraging it,” Shawn Kingsberry, CIO of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said during a recent conference.

“The real focus will be on how to connect disperse data sets to turn them  into more intelligent information to better serve customers in more innovative ways,” he said. RATB uses a cloud hub to manage multiple services. “Going forward, there will be the intersection of mobility and cloud that will change everything about how services are consumed by our customers, as well as how they are delivered by IT,” said Travis Howerton, chief technology officer of the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The government workforce expects to be able to work on any device, anytime from anywhere. As a result, the intersection of the two will fundamentally change government for the better, Howerton said.

The convergence of disruptive technologies will give rise to repeatable architectures, design patterns and solutions that will allow them to become marginally commoditized, Howerton said. At that juncture, agency managers can stop having conversations about the capabilities of point IT products and instead talk about how to use these new IT toolsets to better deliver more value to agencies’ missions.

As agency IT managers deliver these new capabilities, it is incumbent upon them to do so in a way that is easy for the government workforce to use and for IT to protect – and that would be through an IT brokerage, said Anil Karmel, deputy CTO of NNSA.  A cloud or IT brokerage model will let IT insert new capabilities in a timely manner, Karmel said.

DOE has partnered with NNSA to deliver a secure cloud services brokerage technology, YOURcloud, which connects a diverse set of users, spanning federal management and operations constituencies, to a marketplace of cloud service providers. The Defense Department, NASA and even smaller, innovative agencies such as RATB are embracing the cloud brokerage concept wherein they can connect a wide range of federal users and partner organizations to a federated marketplace of cloud service providers.

The concept of cloud brokers is in the early maturity stage, GSA’s McClure said, and as such has a variety of definitions. A broker can provide acquisition services or can serve as a manager of disaggregated cloud services such as infrastructure, platform or software.

“It is unclear what will emerge even though some brokerage role could be value added in an environment where cloud knowledge and experience is thin,” McClure said.

Organizations have to overcome challenges related to people, processes and technology in order for the cloud brokerage model to work, Karmel said. The underlying processes that drive an organization will have to undergo transformation from a procurement, security and technology perspective. Plus, officials must ensure that their organizations have the right technology whether they build it or purchase it.

The government still needs to adopt a more modular, agile development approach for building new technology and an acquisition model with six-to-eight month defined deliverables supported by impact analytics, McClure said.

Other technologies that will have an impact on government operations in the next five to 10 years include: In-memory analytics, visualization-based data discovery, search-based data discovery, collaborative decision-making and social analytics, McClure noted.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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