New computing is emerging. That“™s especially true in relation to the move toward open standards, says Nick Combs, EMC Federal CTO “” he cites VMware and vSphere architectures reliance upon an open application programming interface (API). “Things are published .. they“™re out there “¦ it“™s really becoming an open environment,“ says Combs. “You“™re seeing simple services capabilities being delivered across the market,“ he adds. Ultimately, as proprietary solutions become a thing of the past, additional technologies like cloud optimized storage solutions are becoming available.
Private clouds is another area growing in appeal, slowly, anyway, among federal customers. “We“™re really in the early adoption phase of private clouds within the federal space “¦ however, most organizations are already well on their way toward a private cloud by implementing some form of server virtualization,“ says Combs. The pros and cons of private clouds come down to three things: model interoperability, integration, and security. Private clouds allow for keeping information and applications in their native state “” translating into much easier integration and interoperability with other servers not in the cloud. Security, meanwhile, is still an issue in public cloud offerings. “They cannot currently provide the level of protection that a private cloud can provide,“ says Combs.
Server virtualization’s time has come as well, says Combs. “Network virtualization has been around a long time but I think you“™ll start to see virtualization adopted across the entire technology stack “¦ applications, servers, network, and storage,“ says Combs. “The orchestration of these virtualized environments, working seamlessly together, is where you“™ll see advancements occur.“ Additional advancements include FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering), the latest in the evolution of information life cycle management. “The concept [with FAST] of having the right information available, on the right price point, at the right service level, is something that will change the marketplace,“ he says.
In a word: Private cloud. “You“™re going to see more private cloud adoptions, in a federated private cloud model, across the federal community,“ says Combs, adding that a federated private cloud environment affords the capability to reach across other organizations. Such advances speak to a big picture shift. “The way we manage the physical world today will not work in the virtual world of tomorrow,“ says Combs. “We have to get security engineering right in the cloud environment.“ Toward that end, Combs works closely with RSA Security, a division of EMC, to ensure that security is designed, upfront, in the engineering process.
EMC Federal is also focusing on another aspect of cloud efficiency: a strong delivery model. EMC Federal“™s partnership with VMware, Cisco, and EMC this past year speaks to that; it effectively changes the delivery model of IT resources to organizations. “This [alliance] allows to essentially stop worrying about interoperability and realize integration of different components, together, to form solutions,“ says Combs. The new delivery model also minimizes risk, complexity, and time to benefit. Particularly in the area of O&M costs. So far, early customer implementations of this delivery model have delivered up to 40 percent reduction in the cost of operating and managing virtualized data center infrastructure.
Role for systems integrators
Other systems integrators can be part of the solution, says Combs. “There“™s a lot that the community can add to the architecture,“ he says. Instead of focusing the bulk of their time and resources on interoperability and integration issues, they now have more time to focus on mission, the application, and development environment to rapidly deliver more capabilities to customers. But, the workforce of the systems integrator community will have to change in order to work with the new model, says Combs.
“Today, we have system administrators in each layer of the technology stack “¦ the applications, network, and storage,“ he says. “I believe you“™ll see these environments come together with the use of automation and features like auto provision, which, once again, frees up more of the systems“™ integrator“™s time to focus on the customer“™s mission.“
UP CLOSE: Nick Combs, EMC Federal CTO
Favorite daily read: The Wall Street Journal. “I read it every morning, it“™s how I stay connected to the world.“
Favorite tech gadget: The Kindle, and the DROID, which includes applications like Google Goggles “” great for business card consolidation, says Combs.
Hobbies: Combs has ridden motorcycles since he was five years old. It“™s a passion he now shares with his wife, Georgia, who got her motorcycle license this past year.