The thousand natural shocks that cloud is heir to

Shutterstock images (by tonkaa and Ellen McAuslan): Shakespeare in thought & storm clouds.

(Ellen McAuslan & tonkaa / Shutterstock)

The journey to the cloud is fraught with obstacles both apparent and hidden, which means effective IT managers must be prepared to suffer a few slings and arrows to achieve their aims.

"We have to step outside traditional methods to begin handling this," said Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray.

Bray said July 21 at a panel on cloud technology and agency mission hosted by NextGov in Washington, D.C., that by 2022 humans using 100 billion networked devices will be generating and storing twice the data generated by human speech over the previous course of history.

That explosion of data is forcing everyone to find ways of dealing with it.

The FCC began in 2013 to reshape its aging IT infrastructure and continues its transition to a more agile, cloud-oriented approach to IT and internal and external IT services, Bray said.

Tony Summerlin, the FCC's senior strategic adviser, illustrated that point by noting that his agency has a legacy of tightly entrenched contractors supporting its many legacy systems. Getting them to ditch the unneeded legacy systems in favor of migrating to the cloud is one of those hidden obstacles agencies need to overcome, he said. Getting a detailed inventory of exactly what IT systems the agency had was another. Summerlin estimated that "15 percent" of the FCC’s servers, "were just running software no one was using."

Another hidden issue can lie in the acquisition process, said Maria Roat, chief technology officer at the Department of Transportation.

When Roat started at  DOT about a year ago, she asked for an estimate for the planned cloud budget for fiscal 2015 through 17. The estimate came back with little projected spending on cloud. Then an acquisition went through that mandated a move to cloud services as part of an overarching IT services buy. "It all ties together," she said. "You have to keep track with acquisitions. You need insight.”

An agency's mission, said Customs and Border Protection Chief Technology Officer Wolf Tombe, should be paramount in adopting cloud, as well as getting the most for taxpayers' dollars.

"Talk to your mission leadership about cloud and open [source]," he advised. Showcasing cloud and open technology's operational advantages, he said, is a better approach to get them onboard than touting intangible savings estimates.

The increasing use of open source software, he said, is already reaping benefits for CBP, and the agency is moving toward making open source the go-to in coming projects. "It's a path we're following," he said.

Open source, he added, allowed his agency to update CBP officers' instructions on how to look for infected people at border crossings during the Ebola outbreak in 2013-2014. "We changed our system to alert within hours," he said. "A decade ago, that wouldn't have happened." 

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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