The alphabet soup of tech terms can be hard to keep up with in government. Just when you think you’ve mastered one, here comes 5G, edge computing and artificial intelligence.
But as we embrace the new, let us not forget our roots and the technologies that got us here. Many of these new capabilities are made possible by cloud computing, for example, a technology model that has become so commonplace in our personal and even professional lives.
“As we emerge more into the 5G and IoT [Internet of Things] world, we might forget cloud is the enabler behind that,” said Drew Epperson, Director, Solutions Architecture for Palo Alto Networks Federal. He likened this shift to the way the government evolved from talking about data centers as physical assets to really focusing on how they impacted business outcomes.
During GovLoop’s “Gov Innovators Virtual Summit” Wednesday, Epperson and his fellow panelists made the case that cloud was always about more than dollars and cents. In fact, when done right, cloud computing should change how organizations think and act, whether it’s embracing a digital-first mindset, serving customers or investing in cybersecurity.
Cloud has become an enabler to drive agency culture, said Faisal Iqbal, Manager, Federal Solutions Architecture at Amazon Web Services. Take security, for example. Historically we’ve lived in a world where the security or operations team is responsible for cybersecurity. Now, we all have to take ownership of applications, and we are stakeholders in securing them, Iqbal said.
If agencies use dated security practices in their cloud environments, they’ll hamper their ability to take advantage of cloud-native services, or those that are built and designed to reap the benefits of cloud.
Brad Beaulieu, Cloud Security Architect at Booz Allen Hamilton stressed the importance of agencies embracing policies such as Trusted Internet Connections. The most recent update, known as TIC 3.0, allows greater work flexibility at agencies, keeping up with the modern needs they have to connect to their digital work environments faster and more securely.
Beaulieu added that part of the appeal of cloud technologies is that agencies don’t want to reinvent the wheel. They want to ditch the complexities of maintaining their own IT infrastructure 24/7. “They want the most efficient way to achieve their business objectives,” he said.
Some agencies have become so proficient at cloud, that you’re starting to hear less about the nuts and bolts of cloud computing and more about the work it enables, whether that’s powering the first online census or enabling agencies such as the Small Business Administration to distribute billions in coronavirus aid relief to small businesses.
“The real power of the cloud will be enumerated when we move to edge use cases,” Iqbal said. The ability to enable computing at the edge of the network, with reduced latency means that soldiers, healthcare professionals, or any employee needing to make split-second decisions using data can do so.
As technology options expand, there’s always the potential pitfall of getting fixated on a single tool, Epperson said. His advice: Look broadly at the outcomes you’re trying to achieve, and find the points where things converge.
“DoD [Defense Department] is a great example,” he said. The department is piloting 5G deployments in smart warehouses. Smart warehouses use sensors to collect data about supplies and shipments. Those sensors rely on some form of artificial intelligence to process and communicate the data.
“All of that is very much connected into this cloud journey,” Epperson said.
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