Consolidated infrastructure, Networx could boost utility computing

WILLIAMSBURG, Va.'Federal agencies' move to utility computing will receive a boost from two new programs that should take off later this year.

Agency IT managers said that the Office of Management and Budget's IT Infrastructure Line of Business Consolidation effort and the General Services Administration's $20 billion Networx telecommunications governmentwide acquisition contract will propel the concept forward more than any other program in the last five years.

'We have to get the infrastructure viewed as a utility and get people out of the notion that they have to run their own networks,' Ed Meagher, the Interior Department's deputy CIO, said at the Executive Leadership Conference sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council and the American Council for Technology. 'The opportunity is startling for the government.'

Meagher points to his own agency as an example. He said that, through the IT Infrastructure LOB, Interior could dramatically reduce its number of help desks. Meagher didn't know exactly how many Interior has, but readily admitted there are too many.

Bob Haycock, the chief architect for Interior's National Business Center, said the key to achieving utility computing is standardization through enterprise architecture.

'We have to standardize the process and technology to get to a service-oriented architecture,' Haycock said. 'It will take a leap to have gains.'

Haycock, the former OMB chief architect, added that the White House could lead this effort and push it down to the agencies.

'Until we put those [standards] in place, it is a toss up,' he said. 'The more we invest in SOA and standardize business processes, the more efficient and effective agencies will become.'

John Sindelar, GSA's associate administrator in the Office of Governmentwide Policy, said the move to consolidate IT Infrastructure or standardize around Networx is part of the natural progression of government.

He said agencies should focus on what they are meant to do. Sindelar said the IT Infrastructure LOB will focus on standardizing performance benchmarks and compare them against agency performance. These include metrics for help desk, LANs and data centers, he said.

'We will reach out to industry so they can provide those benchmarks,' Sindelar said. 'We are not talking about consolidation because that would move people's cheese. But we don't have good performance information across agencies, and this will help us get that.'

Meagher added that the potential savings from a governmentwide infrastructure are enormous. But he said this, in part, has to be driven by the agency business people to be truly successful. 'You have to build trust by achieving some short-term successes,' he said.


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