Work to implement the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act along with continued digital transformation, cloud computing and data analytics initiatives at agencies were among several topics that led the federal IT landscape in 2016.
The federal and commercial technology market landscape also shifted this year as the former Dell Inc. closed the industry-record $67 billion purchase of EMC in the fall to create Dell EMC, now a subsidiary of the new Dell Technologies.
To look back at 2016 and forward to 2017, we spoke to Dell EMC’s federal chief technology officer Cameron Chehreh to get his forecasts on trends to watch next year with an outlook on Internet of Things platform usage and information management in cybersecurity.
We started this conversation with Chehreh’s perspective on how the Dell EMC federal business is moving forward nearly three months after the transaction.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the next steps of Dell EMC for its federal business post-merger?
Cameron Chehreh: We are focused on digital transformation for our customers because we recognize that in the current period, we have reached a precipice as far as federal IT is concerned. We can no longer delay the upgrade and modernization of legacy systems as we are starting to see things dry up from a capital perspective.
We need to start the shift to better operational models such as cloud computing to gain the efficiency and scale that the government needs.
ExecutiveBiz: What would you identify as the most disruptive federal IT trend in 2016?
Cameron Chehreh: One of the most positive disruptive trends has been U.S. CIO Tony Scott's ability to drive the language for the FITARA law forward. For the first time after a very long time, Tony Scott has done a brilliant job in bringing a bipartisan approach to align the government from the policy level all the way down to the tactical level within agencies.
This disruptive trend is complemented by the ability to leverage modern digital-ready infrastructure like cloud computing, hybrid cloud on-premise, private cloud and all the great agility that enhances federal, civilian, defense and intelligence community missions.
ExecutiveBiz: What are two IT trends that you have your attention on and we should watch for next year?
Cameron Chehreh: We are just beginning to merge in our understanding of cybersecurity. It has become such a mainstream discussion that as citizens we are all impacted based on cybersecurity vulnerability and capability.
We're also going to see digital transformation to continue to advance, with greater implementation in the next year. Cloud computing will be a large part of that equation, as we are just beginning to tap its potential. A recent survey found 91 percent of federal IT leaders feel cloud is an important technology trend to their agencies.
Hybrid cloud is going to be the best option for federal agencies as it can provide them the flexibility and control necessary to eliminate risk, while still improving efficiency. Organizations are graduating to an infrastructure where they can host something somewhere else. They are moving to fourth-generation applications that are cloud-native, taking full advantage of cloud to create the speed and agility that was promised many years ago.
With the new administration coming in, we are going to look at cyber from a very different perspective. We will see bolder changes in the public-private relationship for information sharing and potential reduction of regulations that allow for a more comfortable setting than what we currently see today. Based on the coming administration's business acumen and background, cloud computing will likely be relevant because of the cost savings it brings.
Being able to pragmatically and practically simplify the government systems' architecture will resonate with the incoming administration, as well. It is still the same two prime thrusts, but very different perspectives on how we approach the value propositions.
ExecutiveBiz: What tangible Internet of Things uses do you expect to come up next year?
Cameron Chehreh: IoT is already embedded in our lives, although it's not as apparent or straightforward as other areas within the technical domain.
Examples of IoT include Fitbits, smart watches or sensors that are embedded in our normal everyday life use, like in the cars we drive. Dell EMC sensors are at the front end for a lot of these capabilities through gateways and back-end infrastructure that supports digital streaming and digital assets created from these sensor points.
This allows for real-time analytics that provide greater situational awareness. Great examples of IoT enabling bases or military installations can be as simple as sensors on devices like lampposts. When the light bulb burns out the IoT sensor can read that and proactively call maintenance to order new parts and facilitate what's necessary in a fully automated manner.
These capabilities enable us to deal with real-time data versus predictive models or statistics. As a city or agency, we can do just-in-time ordering, lower the inventory level and do things in a more predictable manner based on the way the mission or the function of those capabilities work. We are seeing early use cases of IoT being brought into a reality set in everyday life.
ExecutiveBiz: How should agencies elevate conversations on information management with relation to cyber? How do you see that evolving over the next year?
Cameron Chehreh: That’s at the heart of one of the challenges we face with our current state of cyber security, which mostly relies on the collection of data. It is fascinating that the amount of information we collect, from a cyber perspective, is exponentially increasing. We are reaching a point where storing all of that information almost becomes untenable.
We need to scrutinize and look at information to collect, what to analyze on the wire and what should be stored. It is an issue with technical, policy and legislative components. Moving forward in cyber means taking a back-to-basics approach.
Predictive analytics will drive better behavior. We will move towards anomaly detection versus signature-based so we can take early action on things that may not account for an entire incident, rather an event of some network. By doing this we can proactively garner support of this patch, as we begin to embed cyber in normal IT operations.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you envision those in industry like Dell EMC helping agencies with that “back-to-basics“ approach?
Cameron Chehreh: Dell EMC covers a lot of the analytics and defense protective capabilities. Through other assets like Pivotal, that can do predictive analytics and the modeling associated with that, we had the ability to quickly respond to or act on the information that we see. The core infrastructure assets of Dell EMC help store that information, conduct analysis of the information and also act as the full life-cycle of this information.
We can begin to commoditize information. As an example, I may only need one year of online data to be able to be compliant. But after that one year, I can move that data to what's available for quick query, not a retrieval on the operational network. On the technology front, we cover top-of-mind IT innovation, but innovation is also present in our business model.
Providing all of these great solutions and technologies across the portfolio in an as a service or subscription-based model is where we expect the most innovation to come from.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some biases that exist in data analytics? How should agencies think about taking biases out of the algorithms?
Cameron Chehreh: In some of the models, we use our own human bias to skew questions without realizing it. In leveraging algorithms coupled with an artificial intelligence, we begin to allow an objective capability to look at data sets, metadata, ontology extractions and the things that occur with data so that we can look at their analytics in an objective way.
Analytics get skewed by how we ask questions. There is always human bias based on the outcome we want to project in the analytics. We are going to see analytics move to collecting the data and learning from the data by looking at the metadata as relationships from an objective perspective and applying more of the scientific analytics.