It’s very difficult to look at the federal government as a whole and find one overarching IT problem that all agencies are facing.
The fact is, there are too many agencies and organizations within the federal government with far too many differing missions to truly say that one IT problem affects them all equally.
Within the government you have civilian agencies, defense agencies and intelligence agencies. These different kinds of agencies understandably operate with varying amounts of transparency, require varying levels of data security and ingest, manage and store different amounts of data. As a result, they will see some overlap in their IT challenges, but tend to have their own unique challenges that the other agencies either don’t face, or don’t struggle with as mightily.
Ironically, despite their drastically different IT challenges and needs, one single solution – a switch to the cloud – could equally assist these agencies. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of agencies, the challenges that they face, and the way that cloud computing could help overcome them:
Little Timmy turns 17 and passes his first driver’s exam with flying colors. All of his information is entered into a system at the local DMV. His picture is taken. A license is issued.
But the DMV gets something else in return. They now have a picture of Little Timmy and all of his information that needs to be stored as data. They also have to manage that data and ensure that it is archived in such a way that it can be accessed again in two weeks when Little Timmy misplaces his first license. It also has to be shared with the local police department and other agencies who need to know Timmy’s information should he get caught speeding or accidentally take out a mailbox (although I am currently contesting a D.C. area speeding ticket….I haven’t hit a mailbox or lost a drivers license in some time…I swear…).
This story may sound silly, but it perfectly encapsulates one of the largest problems facing civilian agencies. Since they serve the public, there are often mountains of scanned forms, ID photos, tax records and every other kind of data imaginable that needs to be ingested, stored and managed.
Much of this data is coming in from disparate, untethered devices. This influx of unstructured content from distributed sources needs to be ingested in extraordinary amounts and also needs to be managed with a small staff.
By shifting to cloud computing, civilian agencies can almost infinitely extend their amount of data storage. Cloud computing can also help them to overcome the “big data” issues that arise from the sheer size of the amount of data they ingest. A shift to the cloud also makes sharing information both within and between agencies easier.
Defense agencies have some of the same problems that civilian agencies do regarding the ingestion, management and storing of large amounts of data. Soldiers have IDs, military technology has manuals and there are equally large mountains of forms and other information that needs to be stored.
However, some things unique to the defense agencies are their need for high security, and their ability to deliver information about what’s happening on the battlefield to the decision and policy makers thousands of miles away.
Defense agencies have multiple, disparate command and control systems that need to be accessed in different places and by different audiences at different times. Web enabling command and control systems makes them more scalable, accessible and efficient.
From a security standpoint, cloud computing can help agencies consolidate datacenters and then focus all of their resources on securing the datacenters that remain. Some cloud infrastructures such as private clouds can also provide security that is in fact better than many federal datacenters.
Once again, I can’t say that intelligence agencies don’t suffer from the same IT challenges that we’ve laid out above, because they do. In fact, the large network of sensors and other untethered input devices utilized by America’s intelligence community creates very similar problems in ingesting, managing and storing data that civilian agencies have.
Information sharing is one IT challenge facing intelligence agencies that, although not unique to them alone, is exasperated by their specific mission. Intelligence agencies have many personnel, offices and branches distributed across the globe. These distributed presences need the ability to share information and data to ensure that the latest intelligence is available where it’s needed most.
Embracing cloud computing is extraordinarily important for intelligence agencies due to its ability to increase information sharing both inside an agency, and between agencies.
There are multiple challenges facing all areas of the federal government today. Each agency will struggle with one of these challenges more than others due to their mission, their need for transparency and the sensitivity of their data. But, regardless of which problem is the biggest for an agency, some type of cloud computing can be the answer.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: big data, cloud computing, datacenter, department of defense, DMV, DoD, federal government, intelligence community, IT, military | 1 Comment »