Q+A with Shaun Bierweiler: How Cloud, AI Play a Role in Modernization

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Shaun Bierweiler

Shaun Bierweiler is the vice president and general manager of public sector at Cloudera, where he focuses on providing data-based solutions customized to meet the needs of government customers.

This focus, coupled with 15-plus years of experience working at the intersection of technology and business, provides Bierweiler with an insight into the world of data, modernization and emerging technology trends.

He shared those trends and insights with WashingtonExec, including use cases with the Defense Department and its adoption of an advanced data platform, thoughts on how agencies are approaching innovation and what the tech-driven government of tomorrow looks like (hint: it includes artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud).

What are some of the important trends you see in data and data management right now, especially when it comes to modernization efforts?

When it comes to the public sector, data is stored in a variety of formats and systems that support very specific programs and departments, which makes data management critical at all levels of government. As the amount of data created by government continues to grow, agencies are prioritizing access, storage and backup.

However, this rapid data growth makes it difficult to implement and upgrade applications and solutions to deliver services efficiently. Because legacy applications and solutions were not designed to handle the volume, variety and velocity of today’s data landscape, modernization is absolutely critical.

With modernization efforts in mind, a significant focus in data management right now is on breaking down silos to enable effective data sharing across systems. Because of this, we will continue to see a trend where agencies are amassing their data into a single enterprise data platform to have the flexibility and cost-effectiveness needed for data storage.

Further, we’re continuing to see the need for real-time analytics across the public sector. Previously, the challenge has been that deriving actionable intelligence through real-time data analytics was too difficult or expensive. Fortunately, thanks to innovations in open source technology and the application of AI and machine learning tools, agencies can now automate decision-making for true, real-time insights.

Which specific emerging technologies continue to be important in modernizing legacy systems and processes?

Across government, the modernization of legacy systems and processes is primarily being driven by three innovations: cloud, open source and AI. When we look at cloud computing, we see the immediate impact it is having on modernizing IT infrastructure. The cloud enables agencies to migrate data and processes to new platforms, without sacrificing the functionality of critical legacy services.

Enterprise open source technology will continue to be important in modernizing legacy systems because it provides government agencies with the unmatched innovation of the open source community combined with the enterprise-level security and governance needed to protect critical government data.

Lastly, AI will continue to be used in many ways throughout the modernizing lifecycle. From a data perspective, AI is currently and will continue to be used to derive immediate, actionable intelligence that will help agencies not only serve citizens better but also lower costs.

How do you help public sector clients harness the power of data? 

At Cloudera, our mission is to empower people with the tools necessary to transform complex data —wherever it is — into clear and actionable insights. We customize our approach to data based on the individual needs of our customers, so specifics vary on a client-by-client basis.

One use case that I can mention is our work with the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization  — a DOD combat support organization. Like many organizations, JIDO’s development costs were too high, solution deployments were too slow, and their data was contained in too many siloed systems. With its previous data platform, JIDO was forced to focus on day-to-day operations and maintaining the basic capabilities of the stack instead of deploying innovative tools or building analytics.

Among various accomplishments, we were able to reduce JIDO’s operations and management costs by 20 percent and consolidate nearly 1000 data feeds from disparate sources worldwide. By leveraging Cloudera, JIDO was able to shift resources and personnel to focus on mission-oriented analytics and focus on the mission at-hand — supporting the warfighter.

Everyone is talking about AI these days. What role will AI play in modernization efforts?

At the heart of modernization efforts is big data. However, without AI, our ability to understand, learn from and glean insights from our massive stores of data would be time-consuming, expensive, and ultimately quite limited in scope.

AI makes the scaling of data-driven insights possible. But AI’s impact isn’t just a matter of scale; it will also allow us to gain more profound insights across a plethora of data sets. These insights facilitate business processes, increase efficiency and provide government leaders with the capabilities they need to accomplish their missions and serve American citizens.

By automating data processes and decreasing the amount of time spent managing data, AI will be at the core of most modernization journeys from legacy systems to modern technologies, like the cloud.

Working with the government, how do you approach innovation?
 
At Cloudera, one of our key ideals is the democratization of data. Therefore, a central pillar of innovation is our open source community of innovators and collaborators. Using enterprise open source solutions allows government agencies to benefit from innovation facilitated by the open source community in an enterprise consumable fashion with the enterprise-level security agencies need. The open source community provides both the technical capability and the world-class enterprise support essential for our customers’ mission-critical systems and applications.

The government itself has spearheaded many innovative initiatives and projects with the help of open source technology. For example, Cloudera’s Data Flow product — a scalable, real-time streaming analytics platform that ingests, curates and analyzes data for key insights and immediate actionable intelligence — is based on a software project previously developed by the government.

Ideally, what does an innovative, cost-effective government of tomorrow look like? Which technologies would continue to play a key role? Which technologies would be obsolete?

Ideally, an innovative and cost-effective government would utilize an open, hybrid design — hardware and cloud platform agnostic — to allow for rapid integration of new technologies and components. Structures embedded into the core of this design and its implementation would guarantee efficient governance and effective security.

Fundamentally, data’s value depends on an agency’s ability to glean meaningful insights from it, government must be aided and enabled by AI and machine learning in ingesting and processing data. With the help of an enterprise data cloud, government agencies can get the most out of their data by capturing, governing and processing it from its origins at the edge, all the way to AI, which allows them to derive meaningful, transformative insights.

Technologies that we can expect to continue to play a key role in creating an innovative, cost-effective government include enterprise open source, AI, machine learning, cloud, IoT, visualization (as well as other interfaces that facilitate and streamline the user experience), and governance and security technologies.

We are already seeing legacy databases and data warehouses designed for specific data types and formats being rapidly replaced due to their unscalable nature and costly storage and system applications. So, too, are costly, closed, and proprietary applications and therefore these technologies will soon become obsolete.

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