It was an important memo in the federal IT world. Back in February, federal CIO Vivek Kundra told government agencies it was time to develop a preliminary plan for data-center consolidation. The directive spoke to a major shift underway from proprietary, customized platforms to open architecture standards-based systems.
For government contractors, that shift has spelled one thing: adapt or perish.
Leading CTOs in industry and government recently echoed that view in conversation with us. Among them was Peter Levin, CTO of the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. Since his appointment in June 2009, Levin has made consolidated data infrastructure a top priority, along with a reconsideration of traditional industry-government partnerships.
“Vendors who often depend on getting contracts [in which] they hold not just the VA, but any federal partner a captive customer [will] need to rethink their business models,” he said.
Dawn Meyerriecks seconds that view. As deputy director of national intelligence for acquisition and technology for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Meyerriecks has this advice for vendors: “If you’re just an IT infrastructure provider, we can probably hire a thousand of you, and it can be a bidding war because that’s not even interesting computer science anymore.”
Capacity on demand, virtualization and the associated economic trends, each is of particular interest to federal IT leaders like Meyerriecks. So is the cloud. Even before Kundra’s memo, some CTOs on the industry side saw change coming — and they acted first from within.
Now, the government is following suit, slowly but steadily. It’s a shift Nick Combs is seeing as CTO of EMC Federal, especially on the private-cloud front.
“We’re really in the early adoption phase of private clouds within the federal space,” he said. “However,” he added, “most organizations are already well on their way toward a private cloud by implementing some form of server virtualization.”
Cloud is the “new growth platform,” added Yogesh Khanna, CTO for CSC’s North American Public Sector. Meanwhile, Microsoft Federal CTO Susie Adams sees an increasing market for mainstream server products with counterparts that live in the cloud. Microsoft is also fashioning cloud technology that’s accessible from any device.
“You should be able to access data and applications from the device of your choice … devices, over the next three years, will be where a lot of this innovation takes place,” she said.
Security Concerns, Met Head-On
New technologies may offer more nimble IT infrastructures. They also raise security concerns. The cloud, for its part, is seeing an increasing number of denial-of-service attacks, said John Bordwine, Symantec Public Sector CTO.
“If we think our adversaries aren’t looking at all the press around cloud computing and trying to figure out the best way into a cloud environment, then we’re gravely mistaken,” he said.
Collaboration tools are also opening the door to greater attacks. “We need to find ways to enable systems to continue to perform their intended functions and safeguard the data they contain, while simultaneously detecting and eliminating intruders,” said Stephen Huffman, vice president and CTO of The MITRE Corporation.
Regardless of security challenges, excitement abounds, especially on the cloud front. “I have to say,” Microsoft’s Adams said, “the move to the cloud is probably the most disruptive technology, and probably the most exciting time, at least for me, in my career.”