Interview With Pete Tseronis Of The DoE: Cloud Computing, Going Green, Public Sector Innovation

Pete Tseronis began his government career as an intern at the Pentagon “before the Internet was truly born” and is now the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at the U.S. Department of Energy. In his interview with WashingtonExec, Tseronis explains how and why the Department of Energy is moving towards a modern cloud-based infrastructure and other methods that will save the Department of Energy money; including mobile apps and GIS innovations. Tseronis also discussed the impact that social media has had on government interactions with the public.

WashingtonExec:  Can you please tell us a little about your background and what led you to your current position?

Pete Tseronis: Sure, I’ve been in government for over twenty-two years and I’m currently the Chief Technology Officer within the Office of the Chief Information Officer for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  I came over to DOE a little over three years ago, having previously served eight years at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) as their CTO and Directory of Network Operations.  At ED I ran a major consolidation for their voice video and data communications infrastructure.

I started my government career back in the day as an intern at the Pentagon, before the Internet was truly born.  So I’ve grown up with the Internet, grown up in the federal sector and I’m currently loving my job working with good folks like Mike Locatis, the new Chief Information Officer, who came from state and local government.

This is an exciting time in government especially here at DOE. We’re involved in some exciting things and looking to continue helping modernize and improve government use of technology for our colleagues and the public.

WashingtonExec:  How does cloud computing tie into that?

Pete Tseronis: Cloud is one of the ways that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has embraced the promise of technology to help advance the next generation of IT infrastructure.

Just as the introduction of the Internet had such an impact in my career, cloud computing has the same potential impact by permitting agencies to own less equipment and leverage more from service providers so that we can focus more on the mission. Cloud computing lets us be more in the business of defining our applications and focusing on the needs of our business and our mission.

As an IT infrastructure solution, cloud computing alleviates the Department from having to spend a significant amount of its time, energy and of course dollars on keeping our technology up and running, current and secure.

This is the model that government is moving to, following the success and positive impact such technologies have had in the private sector.

WashingtonExec:  Where do you think sustainability and Green Technology can be found in the US Government?  Are there any examples?

Pete Tseronis: I spoke earlier about the impact cloud computing can have on the underlying technologies and systems that are supporting our infrastructure. Part of the connection with  sustainability is in maximizing improvements in the power, server density and ultimately energy efficiency for all these systems, contributing to a smaller footprint. Again, our colleagues in industry have made great strides in this arena, including data center efficiency, and many of our national labs have developed tools to assist in this process.

Another way in which cloud computing and sustainability intersect is in the ways IT enables new services and solutions. Think about how often we move paper, pieces of physical information – we may live by email but we also live by attachments, which end up being pieces of paper that we print out.  IT can enable an environment where information can be sent and utilized in more efficient ways, like no longer having to physically rent a movie.

Earlier this month, we hosted  a geospatial summit here at the Department.  We shared and discussed tools and projects across the agency, in some cases for the first time, including projects like “Open Carto” which builds a GIS toolset for many things. GIS is not just about seeing where something is  located on a map, but can be used to solve complicated zoning and citing challenges.

Awareness of these solutions depends on having an information environment that encourages collaboration, and cloud computing provides the type of standards-based technological infrastructure to compliment this sharing so that ideas and services can be exchanged freely.

If I could just throw another example in actually, I’ll mention it briefly. With apps and smart phones we no longer have to dedicate a majority of our time to our desk or workstation. These tools are at the nexus of these three environments — digital, physical and informational — and provide just-in-time action, changing how we view sustainable worksites.

WashingtonExec:  Cloud computing, as you said, is a big buzzword but cyber security is also big.  Where is the balance between government privacy and public accessibility?

Pete Tseronis: In many cases the public knows about events sooner and in more detail than governments do.  During the London metro bombings and the nuclear emergency in Japan citizens  shared updates through Twitter, Flickr and Facebook.  That’s where technology has led us.

The truth is that we need these devices across both the public and private sectors to communicate in real time, and so we must balance security demands with informational awareness.

WashingtonExec:  Those are all of my questions for you.  Is there anything else you would like to add?

Pete Tseronis: Let me just close with some thoughts on public sector innovation. I think we have proven the benefits of being more agile and accountable, and this momentum is only going to continue.

We are also going to continue being more collaborative.  In the past few weeks alone I have engaged with colleagues from EPA, USDA, ATFSBA, NIH and many others on several, cross-cutting initiatives. This ability to connect with colleagues, including private sector, state and local governments, was unfathomable when I first started public service before the launch of the globally connected network that has changed our world.

I think the Internet has really fueled this sense of collaboration – ‘let’s work together, let’s not create our own stovepipe.’ The Internet has taught us that open standards are a terrific enabler and can span initiatives in the energy and environmental realms, leading to amazing innovations.

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