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DorobekINSIDER LIVE: Combing through Cloud Computing

A special edition of GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER today. We’re LIVE! We meet every month with the simple idea, get smart people together and share ideas because we believe that the real power of information comes when it is shared.


When does a technology fad become real? It usually starts with buzzwords like ‘big data’ or ‘social media’ or ‘smartphone.’ Then the private sector grows it into a viable business plan. Then the government gets a hold of it and we know it’s here to stay.

It was only a few years ago that even putting e-mail into the cloud was seen as a big step. But today, for a whole host of reasons, agencies are looking at the cloud. Even the CIA is now in the cloud, earlier this month, the intelligence agency launched its Amazon Web cloud, a $600 million effort that Government Executive reports will service all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.

Why? Well, the CIA says that If the technology plays out as planned, it will improve cooperation and coordination allowing agencies to share information and services much more easily and avoid the kind of intelligence gaps that preceded the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The DorobekINSIDER Panel of Experts:

  • Shawn Kingsberry, Assistant Director of Technology and the Chief Information Officer, Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board

Kingsberry and Ressler described different models of its use, showed why your organization should implement it today, and gave case studies exemplifying real life applications of the cloud.

So where do we stand on cloud computing today? “Times have changed,” said Kingsberry. “Agencies know that with risk comes innovation but with innovation comes great things like the cloud. We’re at a different place now where federal agencies understand cloud services are a big function. We have a positive progression right now.”

All of the hype about the cloud creates expectations that it will significantly improve a company’s functions. Some of America’s biggest companies have been utilizing the cloud for years.

“It starts with cost savings because its hard to run great data centers. Many tried to run their own server systems to no avail,” said Ressler. “Many large companies, like Netflix, rely on outside vendors. They don’t operate their cloud servers on their own. It gives them the elasticity to grow as fast as they did.”

And grow they did.

But not all information needs to be integrated into the cloud. Kingsberry is in favor of a hybrid approach and sometimes a mixed bag can be a good thing.

“There’s a balance between comfort level and security and we try to live somewhere in the middle,” said Kingsberry, speaking to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. “Most federal agencies will be in a hybrid cloud configuration depending on the agency’s needs. Every agency has to make their own business decisions where it can go, but they need some evangelist to think of 21st century computing to push the bar forward based on the existing programming of work.”

Moderator Christopher Dorobek reiterated that if you’re not at least dipping your toes into the cloud then you’ll be left behind.

Technology is moving too fast for you not to integrate the cloud,” said Ressler. “You can’t ignore such thriving technologies when you look at mobile phones, Facebook and other technology that left naysayers behind. Cloud is here to stay.”

Kingsberry wants to minimize the IT vernacular so it becomes intertwined with the business culture.

“We always spoke in the language of business. We removed tech talk from the discussion [during meetings]. When you have a group of people trying to make a decision you have to speak in a common language or people will step back, tone out, or resist.

Recovery.gov was launched because of cloud services. Anyone who has created any system knows the holdup is waiting for all of the hardware to come in. Cloud allowed us to fast track all of our teams to start working while we built the physical infrastructure,” said Kingsberry.

How does cloud change perspectives in the workplace?

“From my point of view,” said Kingsberry, “I’m looking at more interesting ways with the diversity of data available. I think of how to engage a more diverse set of customers.”

Even the discussion around security has become more nuanced and holistic. It’s more about securing the right employees rather than securing the system.

“It’s a people and training issue so it’s up to the learning and development to take precedent,” said Ressler.

Kingsberry agrees. “Our biggest challenges are people. Technically, if you get the right people behind any problem it can be solved. But it’s the people in the workforce that is a challenge. It will take a new mindset to meet future’s needs. We need government employees who know ‘how to’ to marry up with contract resources. It has to be a constant partnership. The people, as a resource, have to be addressed,” said Kingsberry.

But if the cloud reaches its potential then expect it to become an integral facet of data usage across all of government.

“It could be scary or it can be really exciting,” said Ressler. “The cool part about government is that we invest in people. The opportunities and learning tools on the web are endless. You just need to invest in yourself

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