Government IT Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance for Myth-busting

Posted by Mary Davie
on March 22, 2011

I was happy to see so many of you at the 2011 Interagency Resources Management Conference (IRMCO), GSA’s preeminent forum for promoting innovation, transparency, and collaboration among government and industry leaders. The conference was a unique opportunity to put our heads together on the key initiatives that will transform government management.

I was fortunate to sit on a great panel with Karen Lee, from the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Open Government for Federal Spending Transparency Initiative and Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. We had a great discussion on how open government can drive improved government performance.

I’m a big fan of open government and increased communication, particularly as it relates to better, smarter government acquisitions. This issue is really driven home by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s recent must-read “myth-busting” memo, which basically debunks some of our overly cautious interactions with industry.

In the same spirit of myth-busting and improved government performance, I’d like to debunk some cloud computing myths. OMB has taken an aggressive stance on cloud. We’re all on the hook to move three systems to the cloud by 2012. I’m here to tell you that it can be done intelligently and securely.

Myth #1: Cloud can be anything

With any great innovation comes the temptation to repackage the old as new. You almost can’t open a government or tech trade publication today without seeing the word cloud. But not all cloud offerings are created equal: they must adhere to five essential characteristics. For a brief but thorough explanation, check out the very cool GSA Federal Cloud Computing Initiative video on YouTube.

Myth #2: Public clouds are not secure, and agencies can’t control security requirements

Public clouds are not inherently secure, but, with a little guidance, agencies can put in controls to achieve an acceptable level of security based on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data.

First of all, off-the-shelf security terms are negotiable. Open communication with industry can help agencies define their unique requirements as well as a little help from the cloud experts at GSA.

Second, keeping information systems secure takes constant work. In some cases, cloud service providers may be in a better position to make necessary changes to control risk than if we operated every system ourselves.

Third, agencies can choose what to push to the cloud. Not all systems and data have the same security requirements; not everything is appropriate for cloud. By carefully moving appropriate components to cloud, both cloud-based systems and premise-based systems can become more secure.

Myth #3: Agencies will lose control of their data

Agencies can enforce strict Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for the handling of their data and should build into their requirements a prohibition against data-mining and monetizing.

Myth #4: Moving to the cloud is difficult

Difficult and easy are relative terms. If an agency is facing a technology transition that requires a large capital investment, say in hardware, then making that technology transition may be easier and faster in the cloud. However, every time you move data or applications, there is risk—regardless of whether you move the data or applications to the cloud or different platforms in your own data center.

Good practice in technology generally dictates that systems, applications, or data be moved in pilots or phases. Moving to the cloud is no different. Agencies can move component by component, on a timeline that makes sense for them.

Whatever an agency decides with cloud, GSA can make the acquisition process easier.

GSA is developing cloud-specific blanket purchase agreements that will soon be available to customers for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Email-as-a-Service (EaaS)—based on what we’ve learned from our own cloud-based email procurement and proactive discussions with industry. These vehicles will make it easier for our customers to compare services and acquire what they need from the cloud. See “The Cloud: Battle of the Tech Titans” in Business Week, which explains how cloud is being used today.

To meet immediate needs, we already have existing contracts in place—Alliant and Alliant SB GWACs, and IT Schedule 70—that offer cloud services.

Customers are using all of these acquisitions today to buy cloud-based solution, and they can do those acquisitions quickly.

FACT: Cloud Computing Enables Good Government

We’ve all received our cloud marching orders, but OMB mandates are not the only reason to move forward. Cloud computing is a step forward in addressing the really big challenges we face: budget and deficit crises, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and a population in need of critical government services.

Cloud computing will enable a more efficient, sustainable and effective government for the American people.

GSA can help. Come talk to me. Together we can transform government.

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The Federal 100 Awards Recognize How Technology Transforms

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 23, 2011

New ways of using and managing technology—social media, collaborative tools, dashboards, everything-as-a-service—are transforming the way government agencies accomplish their missions. And behind every technological leap is a member of the federal workforce.

Each year, Federal Computer Week’s Federal 100 list highlights how innovative and creative government and industry workers have catalyzed government transformation, recognizing them for outstanding public service and going above and beyond their daily responsibilities.

I’m honored to have been named to this year’s list for my work on the BetterBuy project. In my new role as Assistant Commissioner of GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS), I will continue the dialogue the project started so ITS can deliver the transformative solutions agencies need.

However, I’d like to focus on the achievements of two people within my new organization. I work with enterprising individuals dedicated to innovation, and I’d like to highlight the achievements of Michael Anastasio, Jr. and Daisy Bhagowalia.

Delivering Innovation: Cloud Computing

Cloud computing technology is poised to transform the way we manage government. It heralds cost-effectiveness, increased efficiency, and renewed mission focus. But until now, many agencies have been unclear on cloud computing’s characteristics and the way in which they could procure it. All that has changed, thanks to Michael Anastasio, Jr.

In October 2010, under Mike’s stewardship, GSA awarded the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) blanket purchase agreement, the first cloud-specific government contract vehicle. Working with agencies, industry and key stakeholders, Mike managed the program to ensure the resulting solution would position GSA to meet agencies’ current needs as well as anticipate future requirements.

Mike’s efforts put in place the tools agencies need to realize the benefits of cloud while complying with the Office of Management and Budget’s “Cloud First” policy and the White House’s recently released Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, particularly their contracting and security provisions.

Delivering Acquisition Excellence: .Gov Contract

With the government now in budget season, more than ever, each agency is looking to stretch technology investment funds. IT security concerns have also never been greater.

The .GOV Domain Registration program offers U.S. government organizations an online registry for the Internet’s .GOV namespace. As the .GOV program manager, Daisy Bhagowalia oversees all aspects of this effort including registering, administering and maintaining .GOV second-level domain names such as gsa.gov and whitehouse.gov.

Daisy was recognized this year for her team’s successful implementation of a no-cost direct order/direct bill contract. This strategy upgraded the .GOV system to the highest Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 199 security level, thus giving customers a more streamlined, secure service.

What is “great government through technology” if not saving the government time and money while improving security and customer service?

Both Mike and Daisy have helped make government more efficient and effective by focusing on great service. Their efforts are saving agencies time and money, while improving GSA’s ability to deliver the crucial solutions government requires in order to deliver great services to citizens.

Thank you for following my blog and my tweets. I want to hear your feedback on how we can build on these successes, and how ITS can continue to improve the way we serve our customers.

We congratulate all the Federal 100 winners for their hard work!

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Great Government and the Technology Dividend

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 3, 2011

Welcome to Year 2 of the Great Government through Technology blog. I’m Mary Davie, the new Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS). Many of you may already know me as the former Assistant Commissioner of Assisted Acquisition Services (AAS) and my work with the Better Buy Project and the Better Blog.

I’m excited to have the opportunity to talk with you here, and I look forward to opening a conversation on how GSA can deliver great government through its technology products and services.

I view my transition from AAS to ITS as a logical step. Both AAS and ITS share a similar perspective on how to use technology to facilitate the acquisition process and deliver integrated solutions. Both have a similar focus on innovation, sustainability, customer intimacy and operational excellence—we make acquisitions easier, faster, better, greener and more secure.

I am also a strong proponent of Web 2.0 and social media for engaging colleagues, customers and industry. For those who don’t know me, Twitter is one of my favorite ways for reaching out to colleagues and customers.

Reaping Technology Dividends
If there were ever a time to aspire to “great government through technology,” it’s now. Agencies face tightening budgets. Acquisition professionals are being asked to do more with less. Large IT acquisitions have come under greater scrutiny.

However, we have much to be hopeful about: new technology solutions such as Cloud Computing and Data Center Services will yield dividends for the government—cost-savings; reduced carbon emissions; and increased communication, collaboration, transparency and productivity.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked all along the IT acquisition lifecycle, with industry, our customer agencies, and my colleagues on all sides of GSA’s business. I see enormous possibilities to collaboratively align GSA’s product and service offerings to meet agencies’ needs for increased productivity, security, and sustainable and cost-effective mission-critical systems.

In 2010, ITS took big steps to reach out to agencies and industry in new ways.

In 2011, we’ll build on that momentum. We’re putting the service back into Integrated Technology Services. More on that in the future.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment. Tweet me. Or come see me at the Coalition for Government Procurement Executive Breakfast on February 25th.

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New Endings, New Beginnings: Looking Ahead to 2011

Posted by Ed O’Hare
on January 7, 2011

It’s now been just over a year since I launched the Great Government through Technology blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. It’s the thoughtful discussions I’ve had with you—our valued customer agencies, industry partners, and government colleagues—that prompted me to write this blog in the first place.

As you may know, I will be retiring this month. For my last two years as Assistant Commissioner of GSA’s FAS Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS), I’ve had the good fortune to work with great people and oversee a number of exciting initiatives: the successful rollout of GSA’s Alliant and Alliant Small Business GWACs, the Future Commercial Satellite Communications Services Acquisition (FCSA) in partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), and the awarding of Infrastructure-as-a-Service contracts, GSA’s first cloud offering.

GSA has proved its commitment to greater agency and industry partnership, acquisition innovation, and operational excellence.

Looking Ahead to 2011

For my final post on the Great Government through Technology blog, I’d like to look ahead, rather than reflect on the past. Here’s what I see on the horizon for federal IT and GSA in 2011.

Sustainability, cybersecurity, and cloud computing offerings have reached or passed their tipping points. In addition, budget concerns, increased oversight, and a serious need for better IT project management will lead to smaller IT acquisitions and greater collaboration.

Sustainability. With the President’s Executive Order (EO) 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, government agencies must become more sustainable. GSA, among others, must help achieve “greener government.” At the same time, agencies will be driven by budget concerns to seek out technologies that offer greater operational efficiency and sustainability.

Cybersecurity. Innovative acquisition solutions are critical to securing our nation’s digital infrastructure. GSA must address agencies’ current requirements and anticipate their future needs. The next generation of cybersecurity offerings must entail fully integrated solutions made up of pre-authorized products and services.

Security needs and budget concerns will require increased cross-agency partnerships, such as the DoD and DHS Cybercommand Memo of Understanding (MOU) and will spur experimentation with industry-government partnerships to leverage government buying power and private sector best practices.

Cloud Computing. Cloud computing may prove to be the nexus of sustainability, cybersecurity, and IT organizations’ need to stretch their funding. In line with these concerns and the federal CIO’s “cloud first” policy, cloud will become the default option for IT operations. Hybrid clouds will proliferate. Pay-as-you-go, or subscription models, will become increasingly common. GSA’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering is only the first of great things to come.

Smaller IT Acquisitions. Agencies will seek out ways to make IT projects more manageable, cheaper, and less risky, to include breaking large-scale IT implementations into smaller projects issued under task orders to existing contract vehicles such as Alliant and Alliant Small Business.

Collaboration. Whether we’re talking about innovative partnership strategies such as FCSA, the DoD-DHS MOU, new Web 2.0 tools such as GSA’s Interact, or improved communication among acquisition and IT shops, increased collaboration will be key to improving IT project management.

The “Beat” Goes On

While GSA may face many challenges, 2011 will be an exciting year. Where there are challenges, there are also opportunities to innovate.

In the words of a former major league baseball commissioner, “Players turn over, owners turn over, and certain commissioners turn over. But baseball goes on.” Though I am moving on, I want to welcome Mary Davie, who will be taking my place as Assistant Commissioner of the GSA FAS Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS).

As former head of the GSA FAS Office of Assisted Acquisition Services (AAS), Mary’s IT acquisition experience, innate understanding of customers’ needs, and proven leadership ability make her uniquely suited for leading ITS and working with you to realize the vision of Great Government through Technology.

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