Dr. David McClure of GSA and David Cearley of Gartner Keynote Federal Cloud Computing Summit

Dr. David McClure, GSA

The first annual Federal Cloud Computing Summit was held May 30th 2013 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center with Greg Mundell of InfoZen serving as Chairman and Dr. David McClure of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) serving as Government Advisor for the event. Both Keith Trippie of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Tom Suder of Mobilegov served as Vice Chairman of the Summit and Technology Showcase.

Dr. McClure welcomed summit attendees by sharing some of the biggest obstacles he faces as he encourages Federal agencies to move to cloud and open source platforms.

“You know as well as I do, if you are from the government, that we are plagued with management structures that  just bury information within our databases, within our stovepipes, we think singularly in terms of the use of data, we talk about spreading data, we talk about sharing data but it is very difficult to do. The data is everywhere, but getting access to it and then using it for meaningful purposes have always been a challenge,” Dr. McClure said.

Dr. McClure went on to say, “What I think you are seeing, and we have been seeing this but it is really taken off in the last few weeks, is that we are moving into a new productivity and performance paradigm that is really going to focus on using data in smart and intelligent ways. We are going to find, as a result of the open data policy, that data is much more open, much more abundant, much more usable, and much more machine readable. All these things that we could not do with data before… The use of the information that I think you are going to see from a management prospective is for efficiency, for accountability, to scale things fast, and to move with a different velocity that we in government are not quite used to. It will be a focus on performance and productivity going forward.”

Dr. McClure then dove a bit deeper regarding why he now sees big data analytics as a growth for opportunity and how it coincides with the changing needs and challenges of the federal government. McClure admitted that he did not consider it a necessary technology offering just a few years ago.

“Data is going astronomically….The challenge is not “do we have enough data?” The challenge is trying to make big data small data and have usable chunks of data that is really going to be to think through as we step through cloud computing today. I call this the “industrial revolution of data,” it is here, we tried to do this before, we did not have the technology, we didn’t have the government processes, and I think that is very different today. We are going to be able to start mining and using information with much more velocity than what we were able to do in the past.”

Before taking the stage, keynote speaker David Cearley paused so that the audience could wish Dr. McClure a “very happy 39th birthday.” Cearley, a vice president and Gartner Fellow at Gartner Research, kicked off the morning by describing the rise of the virtual private cloud and why 2013 marks “the year of hybrid cloud thinking.”

“Hybrid needs to be very high on your list of topics you are thinking about in the world of cloud computing. If I break this down to our cloud forecast and “what do we see in the market?”, you will see a number of things here. First of all, we see infrastructure as a service growing quite a bit, but software as a service remains the larger market in terms of typical cloud services…We are seeing a lot of business process outsourcing activities moving to essentially become cloud services because a business/service-type relationship was already apart of many of those engagements. And so business processes, like doing payroll by a third party, were already made for moving into a cloud-type of a model. Delivering as a service with self-service interfaces and shared elasticity models behind the seams we do see that as an ongoing and growing area,” said Cearley.

He then went on to describe the five-point model for cloud computing, which includes: where and how agencies should use cloud services, where and how private cloud should be implemented, how to secure and manage hybrid cloud environments, how cloud fits into other technology applications, and how to find opportunities for an agency to become a cloud provider.

“It starts with a decision framework, will star with looking at potential advantages and disadvantages around cloud computing as a style of computing. Only a couple things I want to mention here, which are really important. First, you will notice cost is not #1 on my list. Everyone starts when looking at cloud, saying it is going to save you money. You know, there will be targeted areas where you will save money using cloud services, particularly from external firms, but it is not always going to save you money,” Cearley said.

“I see plenty of cases, particularly with different SaaS operations, where five to seven year lifecycle cost analysis, verses in-house, was such that you are going to spend more money over that external lifecycle than you would if you did it internally. The point is, don’t just assume cloud is cheaper; you have to have mechanisms in place to evaluate the lifecycle about the cost over time. Sometimes, even if it isn’t cheaper, it makes sense to do it anyway. The number one issue with cloud is agility. You can move rapidly to expand, reduce or change the resource that you require and that helps support business innovation. You can change things more easily with less up-front risk of having to roll out a lot of infrastructure. You get automatic updates to software and infrastructure services, without having to go through big update cycles. There are plenty of things to look at that are potential value points,” Cearley noted.

You can find slidedecks used by panelists and the visionary speaker on the Federal Cloud Computing Summit website. The next Cloud Summit will be held October 9th2013. Mobilegov is hosting two more summits this summer, including the 2013 Federal IT & Network Services Summit and Technology Showcase June 20th 2013 and the Federal Mobile Computing Summit July 9th 2013.


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