What’s ahead on the technology front for government and industry? The answer depends on who you’re talking to. So when we set out to showcase our annual roundup of CTO perspectives, we went knocking on both sides of the aisle. From the ranks of some of the area’s government contracting firms, to the halls of federal agencies, the CTOs highlighted below offer an in-depth look at the top technology challenges ahead — and developments in the works moving forward.
>> FOR THE LATEST IN CLOUD COMPUTING … Microsoft Federal CTO Susie Adams explains why the cloud is the next big “disruptive technology”; CSC CTO Yogesh Khanna shares what’s next in industry-government collaboration on the cloud front; and EMC Federal CTO Nick Combs debriefs on why the private cloud is the natural next step for many federal agencies.
>> FOR THE LATEST IN STRENGTHENING YOUR COMPANY’S INTERNAL PORTFOLIO … MITRE CTO Stephen Huffman discusses the internal collaboration tools that are helping MITRE offer cutting edge solutions in areas such as electronic medical records; Serco CTO Ron Lewis explains why now’s the time for your organization to create a nimble IT infrastructure — and how it can benefit your external customers.
>> FOR THE LATEST IN GOVERNMENT TECH TRENDS … Dawn Meyerriecks of ODNI offers vendors an inside look at technology trends she wants to see them bring to the table. Meanwhile, Peter Levin of VA says contractors are going to have to transition from thinking of government agencies as captive customers.
>> FOR THE LATEST IN CYBERSECURITY … Lee Holcomb explains why it’s imperative for government and industry to work together to bolster cyber ranks; while John Bordwine shares the latest in malware threats — and why it’s especially critical to be vigilant in the cloud.
Let’s get started …
Some tech predictions come to pass, others don’t. But here’s one that’s holding steady. In 2009, Microsoft Federal CTO Susie Adams said the upcoming administration would put economies of scale and cloud computing at the top of line. Sure enough, federal interest in the cloud continues its ascent. Most recently, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, along with NIST, announced the launch of FedRAMP, a government-wide authorization program that will require IT service providers to comply with uniform cloud computing standards. “It’s a big step in the right direction for agencies to accelerate the adoption of cloud computing in government,” says Adams.
Adams’ ability to gauge the long-term sustainability of the cloud comes backed by her 25 years in the industry. Along the way, she’s seen a number of “transformational times,” as she puts it, from DOS, to GUI interfaces, to Windows of course. She’s now placing her bets on the cloud. “I have to say,” says Adams, “the move to the cloud is probably the most disruptive technology — and probably the most exciting time, at least for me, in my career.”
It’s time to stop reacting. That’s John Bordwine’s message as Symantec Public Sector CTO. “When it comes to information security, we can’t afford to react any longer,” says Bordwine, a 15-year veteran of the security products industry. “We have to be more predictive, we have to be more offensive in understanding the environment — understanding the risk — and knowing who’s coming at us, why they’re coming at us, and what level of protection we have in place … this has to be a change from the day-to-day mindset with which we’ve thought about security for the last few years,” says Bordwine.
That shift requires “situational awareness,” a term that Bordwine has been busy unpacking in his role as CTO. “Situational awareness comes down to several things, says Bordwine: policy, compliance, education, plus understanding the relevance of the environment to the mission at-hand. It also requires answering several key questions. As Bordwine explains: “How well do your end users understand the security policies within your agency? How will you measure compliance? How will you even define your compliance metrics? Is it FISMA or another future mandate?” Also critical, says Bordwine, is to look at the policy on how information is shared, stored, and backed up — who has rights and privileges to certain types of information. “All of these aspects, from the desktop to the storage devices, to the file services, have to come together,” says Bordwine, adding, “You have to understand how they all play into your environment to understand your definition of situational awareness.”
When it comes to cloud computing, there’s a lot of confusion out there — especially among government customers. Recent reports suggest government IT executives lack a solid understanding of the technology. That’s where Nick Combs is lending both his technical expertise and intimate understanding of government issues.
Ever since Combs wrapped up a 25-year career as a government decision maker (most recently, at DIA) to become CTO of EMC Federal in September 2008, he’s been traveling nationwide, taking the pulse of government IT managers. The current IT status quo isn’t exactly to their liking, and that’s putting it mildly. “Not one of them tells me they’re happy with their current IT environment,” says Combs. “We’ve been building IT the same way for the last 40 years — monolithic stove-piped environments.” That approach is proving untenable.
Faced with an exploding volume of information, plus heaping O&M bills, government IT managers are looking for new capabilities. Naturally, though, they’re still cautious about the cloud. Combs understands why. “That [caution] really comes down to education to weed through the ‘cloud buzz’ that’s out there in the marketplace,” says Combs, who routinely writes and speaks on cloud issues. Despite the “buzz,” however, he remains adamant: This is a technology whose time has come. “If you look at the characteristics of what the cloud can bring to organizations … it’s a flexible, on-demand, dynamic, efficient IT environment, something that every single technologist needs in their environment,” he says. “Cloud computing,” he adds, “is the next big wave in IT computing.”
Lockheed Martin’s Lee Holcomb: Government and industry will need to to bolster cyber ranks — together
When it comes to cybersecurity, industry and government are often seen as adversaries, vying for the same dwindling pool of cyber talent. It’s a scenario that Lee Holcomb is helping both parties move beyond. As Vice President of Strategic Initiatives responsible for overseeing Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services Center for Cyber Security Innovation, Holcomb routinely offers strategic insights to industry and government on ways to bolster their cyber ranks. Talking to Holcomb, you sense a higher calling, grounded, as it is, in pragmatism. “Number one, we’re a competitive organization — we’re going to go after the best talent we can,” says Holcomb, adding, “That said, it’s important for everyone to build, retain, and nurture cyber talent for the nation — that’s my personal belief.”
Holcomb has put that personal belief into practice. Internally, he’s helped create the Lockheed Martin Cyber University, an internal training initiative designed to develop a cyber workforce. Since its launch in 2008, the university has generated 8,000 hours of training to build up cyber talent. In the process area, Holcomb joined in the decision to put three program lines through ISO 27001 registration — a distinction that makes Lockheed the first major systems integrator in the United States to receive that registration. Other internal strides include CISSP certification for more than 100 employees and an increase of the company’s security workforce by more than 200 people.
For CTOs focused on an internal portfolio, Dr. Stephen Huffman is a name you should know. As vice president and chief technology officer of The MITRE Corporation, Huffman leads a treasure trove of brainpower within the organization’s research and development program. Getting each and every project off the ground — including, electronic medical records standards-setting; finger-printing technology research; and cybersecurity initiatives — starts with solid internal collaboration.
That’s where Huffman’s vision comes in.
Huffman has helped tackle a question that many enterprises have still left to answer: the role that social media can play in promoting idea generation and productivity internally. “We put a lot of effort into creating the tools and culture that can promote knowledge-sharing across the company,” says Huffman, who’s held a variety of positions in support of MITRE’s work for government customers since joining the company in 1988.
Over the past year, cloud computing has been associated with its share of fuzzy definitions. For Yogesh Khanna, CTO at CSC, the definition is simple: It’s a scalable style of computing.
Khanna offered up that succinct definition a year ago. Fast-forward to today, and Khanna’s view hasn’t changed. What has evolved are the offerings that service providers can now bring to government customers. “Here I’m referring to things like private clouds, public clouds, and hybrid clouds,” says Khanna.
There’s also a much better understanding, he says, of what he calls the “four layers” — a de facto framework for clouds that encompasses infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, software as a service, and business processes as services.
Peter Levin pulls no punches. That becomes quickly apparent in conversation with the man who was tapped chief technology officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs in June 2009. Take his assessment of the department’s past IT capabilities: “In the most fundamental way, the VA had an old style electronic infrastructure — everything from the way our telephones worked, to our skills and familiarity with Web 2.0 tools.”
That’s changing, though, in a big way. A “veteran-centric use model,” says Levin, is on its way.
Over the past year, Levin and VA CIO Roger Baker have led several groundbreaking initiatives. Among them is Project Aviva, the next generation of VistA, which is focused on the re-architecture and reimplementation of electronic medical records. It’s based on an incremental approach. “We’ve come up with a sensible way of harvesting from the original code base either the actual modules that we can plug into a socket-like platform or use the original base code as a computer science-like specification,” says Levin.
Defense and intelligence business is growing. Recent acquisitions prove as much. For CTOs, that means one thing: Now’s the time for nimble IT infrastructure. That’s something that Ron Lewis, CTO of Serco Inc, realized well before his own company acquired another big player over two years ago. Fast-forward to 2010: Many of the best practices that Lewis put in place — including, SOA and cloud computing frameworks — hold lessons for private industry eyeing future acquisitions, as well as for government customers looking to lower total cost of ownership.
“Some of the things that we, as an industry, have dealt with — total cost of ownership, process improvement, alignment of IT, and business strategies — carry over directly to what our external clients are facing,” says Lewis. A recent memo, from Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, drives home that point; it calls for federal information officers to create a detailed roadmap to consolidate agency data centers. “Everybody, in government and industry, wants to reach a lower TCO, and that means constantly evaluating how you’re operating today and where the opportunities are for consolidation,” says Lewis.
ODNI’s Dawn Meyerriecks: Phenomenology, analytics, business intelligence, and competitive intelligence will rank high
Ever since Dawn Meyerriecks was tapped Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Acquisition and Technology for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in September 2009, she’s focused on two main tasks: First, to build relationships across the entire intelligence community that, in turn, offer clarity about which technology to acquire and develop. Second, to determine where to spend the next investment dollar in procurements, acquisitions, R&D — the whole life cycle of technology roll-out in support of mission applications.
So, what technologies is Meyerriecks tracking?
“There is a long list here,” she says. Among them: capacity on demand, virtualization, and the associated economic trends. “We actually funded our own upgrades based upon cost savings from the IT infrastructure,” says Meyerriecks. The cloud is another point of interest. “That’s one big trend we think has a lot of positive implications for us,” says Meyerriecks. “Cloud can perform at rates and without a priori determining a taxonomy, so we can do data ingestion in the cloud and be able to index efficiently and quickly without having to know ahead of time what analysts’ vocabularies we are particularly trying to support,” she says. As for how the cloud might unroll in the intelligence space, Meyerriecks says, “We’re probably going to be conservative to start with. We’re probably going to be talking about the private clouds because we like to own our own stuff.”