Agencies push for open standards across cloud services

Agencies push for open standards across cloud services

Agencies are adopting a growing range of cloud solutions, but more-robust open standards would better support hybrid clouds and integrate cross-vendor workflows.

“A lot of the discussion around infrastructure as a service needs to move in the direction of platform as a service and software as a service,” the International Trade Administration’s CIO Joe Paiva said at a recent MeriTalk government cloud event. “You need to make those platform as a services work together.”

While the open standards for web services and application programming interfaces allow ITA to easily move and exchange data on the web, Paiva said, there are no standards for workflows across multiple clouds’ application programming interfaces.

“What we can’t do is actually use that open source front end to change a business process, to change a workflow,” he said.

Standards that could allow different cloud environments such as Amazon Web Services, GitHub and Azure to talk to each other would remove the need to set up a non-scalable VPN concentrator to manage communications among various virtual private network nodes. 

“If I’m buying all these tools to automate something as simple as provisioning, and every cloud provider has a different set of APIs that I have to call to spin up a stack, then that doesn’t work,” Paiva said.

The ITA works with several CSPs, including a vendor with an advanced PaaS offering to build workflows. But Paiva doesn’t want to be locked into a vendor for one service and is looking to standardize the connections between cloud providers and networks.

With open standards, Paiva said, ITA could build a user interface that uses one vendor’s ElasticSearch service and another vendor’s SaaS-based customer relationship management tool. That way, the agency wouldn’t have to pay separate cloud providers for the input and output of data that a user might request from the ITA’s public-facing website.

Additionally, Paiva said he is pushing industry for open standards for workflow metadata as well, which would eliminate the need to use each vendor’s proprietary coding and settings and allow agencies to easily modify workflows, data and the way data is presented.

Paiva’s push for standards comes as the ITA is in the middle of transforming its business from serving 25,000 companies to reach 350,000 companies. “We need more agility, so we need the standards for the process flows and workflows,” he said.

The Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency CIO Chad Sheridan agreed with the need for open standards-based cloud services, but said he hopes moving to open standards will drive the discussion from IT to mission outcomes and value.

Specifically, Sheridan wants to take a continuous delivery pipeline built with one vendor to another vendor without a whole lot of heavy lifting. The open standards could also prevent  being locked into a vendor with a higher maintenance cost.

“We need to walk that fine line of ‘standard enough’ so that it’s easy to move between [vendors],” Sheridan said. “We have to have enough customization or configuration of PaaS so that it matches the business. If we forget that we’re here to serve a mission and we go help them on standards just for standards sake…it doesn’t work.”

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a Reporter/Producer for GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media, Ziadeh was a contributing journalist for USA Today Travel's Experience Food and Wine site. She's also held a communications assistant position with the University of Maryland Office of the Comptroller, and has reported for the American Journalism Review, Capitol File Magazine and DC Magazine.

Ziadeh is a graduate of the University of Maryland where her emphasis was multimedia journalism and French studies.

Click here for previous articles by Ms. Ziadeh or connect with her on Twitter: @aziadeh610.


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