David Egts, senior director and chief technologist of Red Hat’s North American public sector, recently took part in a recent Q&A session with ExecutiveBiz to detail the ongoing importance of edge computing and its capabilities in data processing.
During the Q&A session, Egts also discussed the changes in the federal workforce as our sector continues to adjust to telework as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of edge devices, the benefits and challenges of maintaining the connectivity for the internet of things (IoT), the positive influence of flexible tech infrastructure and more.
You can read the full Q&A session with David Egts below:
ExecutiveBiz: Following the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on federal agencies and the federal workforce’s telework capabilities, what has changed since we last spoke about the topic last summer?
“Public and private sector leaders and employees realized that we’ve gone from a sprint to a marathon, and our operational tempos needed to adjust accordingly.
Burnout has become front-of-mind with leaders in both sectors, but what surprised me the most was a recent survey that stated that 70 percent of senior executives reported burnout, higher than supervisors (60 percent) and non-supervisory (55 percent) employees.
I recently met with some government leaders to get their take on this survey. I visibly saw the tension in their faces release as they heard from me what they’ve been feeling for some time.
As senior leaders, they need to be a pillar of strength for their teams as they faced not only external adversity to provide government services during a crisis, they internally had several employees pass away due to COVID.
On the bright side, I’ve been engaging more than ever with government executives and industry peers from around the world now that we’re all equidistant through video conferencing.
Although the serendipity discovered by breakroom and in-person event discussions will continue to be difficult to come by, the ability to connect to more diverse voices around the country and the world will result in richer conversations that otherwise would not have happened.”
ExecutiveBiz: As federal agencies continue to discover new ways to advance their technology capabilities, can you provide an explanation of edge computing’s importance to their modernization efforts?
“Edge computing grew out of the Internet of Things—connected devices and sensors that are placed at various points and locations and collect and transmit data. Edge devices are meant to provide near real-time information about whatever might be happening where that edge device is located.
An example would be smart traffic cameras that relay information about intersections and traffic patterns so local municipalities can take steps to reduce accidents or improve traffic flow.
Many of these devices collect massive amounts of data that must be processed very quickly. It’s not feasible to send this information back to a centralized data center for processing–there are latency issues, and it would take too long and cost too much money.
So, many of the devices are processing data right at the edge.”
ExecutiveBiz: What more can you tell us about the devices available and the challenges that we’re still addressing with a hybrid cloud approach?
“The challenge is many edge devices may have different capabilities than those in the public cloud. So, you’ve got one set of capabilities in the public cloud, and a totally different set at the edge, which increases complexity. It also inhibits the ability to reuse components for future applications, which makes the process highly inefficient.”
The best option is to adopt an open hybrid cloud approach. You’ve probably heard the term ‘hybrid cloud,’ where organizations use a combination of public and private cloud environments. An open hybrid cloud is the same idea, except it’s built on an open-source substrate.
This underlying infrastructure stays the same regardless of whatever devices are running on top of it. You can have different types of edge devices with different capabilities and be able to easily manage them just as you would any other device. You can easily move workloads to and from the edge as needed and build multiple applications for different uses.
Basically, an open hybrid cloud gives you a single, standardized infrastructure that always stays the same so that everything else can be different.”
ExecutiveBiz: What makes this approach easier for organizations to implement and see the benefits of edge data processing?
This approach helps you get around the problems associated with “data gravity,” which is a catchy term that developers came up with to articulate one of the key issues with managing massive data sets.
The idea is that data has a gravitational pull, and performing computations where the data is collected is just a lot easier and more cost-effective than sending it back to a data center. An open hybrid cloud substrate makes this possible.”
ExecutiveBiz: What else will organizations need to continue to stay ahead of the curve and offer the highest level of capabilities and benefits in the future as connectivity becomes even more important to our sector?
“The amount of data being collected at the edge is only going to increase. As datasets grow, the demands for deriving actionable, real-time intelligence from that information will increase, too.
Organizations will need to implement strategies and technologies that allow them to process this data quickly so they can provide actionable insights to whoever or whatever needs them. That could be a warfighter who needs to make a quick decision or an autonomous vehicle that needs to process whether or not that obstacle ahead is a pedestrian or something else.
Organizations also need to be able to share data with each other. The Federal Data Strategy, for example, calls for government agencies to leverage data as a strategic asset and proactively share information for more informed decision-making.
The problem is different agencies may use different technology platforms. An open hybrid cloud substrate ties everything together regardless of platform, allowing for easy but secure data sharing across agencies.”
ExecutiveBiz: How important will it be for organizations to keep the windows of communication and information open to maintain a flexible technology infrastructure in the months ahead?
“It’ll be extremely important, not just over the next few months, but in perpetuity. The pandemic taught us there will be times when organizations will be required to turn on a dime.
To do this, they will need an infrastructure that affords them the agility needed to make adjustments. Building upon an open substrate will allow organizations to keep their options open, even after the pandemic is over.”
About David Egts
David Egts is the senior director and chief technologist of Red Hat’s North America public sector organization. He acts as an intersection between the company’s public sector customers, internal engineers, and product managers to develop open source solutions for the government.