Feb 11 2020

What Is the Right Level of Cloud to Handle Data Sharing Needs?

The data "ecosystem" needs a solid foundation in order for information to move cleanly within government systems.

Moving email and collaboration tools to the cloud was relatively simple for federal agencies, compared to the next project: moving data.

As more agencies look to share data and collaborate more closely, solving the challenges of how to store data in a way that makes it accessible and usable to multiple agencies are becoming more urgent.

“In many cases, it’s not the technology that’s the difficult piece, it’s bringing the organization together on a different architecture. Cloud is not new at this point,” said Beth Killoran, deputy CIO at the General Services Administration, at Cloudera’s recent Data Cloud Summit.

“You can’t just say, ‘It’s going to save us money by going into the cloud,” she continued. “You have to understand what level of cloud is going to save you money, and infrastructure and services is not it. It’s part of an ecosystem, and you’re going to have to look at the totality of doing it.”

Cloud Solutions Need to Work Over A Full Data Lifecycle

Currently, agencies are turning to multiple cloud options, said Joe Witt, vice president of engineering at Cloudera. About 47 percent still use on-premises solutions, 32 percent use private clouds, 26 percent use hybrid clouds and 24 percent use multicloud solutions.

“Data is everywhere,” he said. “We have to have solutions that are also everywhere, and treat data as a complete, enterprise-wide asset.”

These solutions also have to work over the data’s entire lifecycle, he said — collecting it, enriching it (adding the necessary information to give the data context), reporting it and using it to make predictions. 

If solutions don’t work, enterprises often turn to shadow IT to get the job done; a recent Gartner report found that enterprises spend about 40 percent of their resources on shadow IT, Witt said.

“Enterprise IT largely doesn’t operate at the speed of business,” he said. “It has to be better than shadow IT or you will continue to see this 40 percent spend. Shadow IT is a problem that needs a strong solution, but it’s also where innovation can occur — providing the fabric of being able to seamlessly move data.”

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Planning is critical when preparing a move to the cloud.

Data Volume Triggers More Challenges for Feds

Bryan Ware, the assistant director for cybersecurity at the Cyberintelligence and Security Agency, in his first week on the job, notes that he was just learning to appreciate the scale of the amount of data flowing into his Department of Homeland Security agency.

“We’re sharing millions of indicators of compromise with all the leading threat intelligence vendors as well as enterprises that use the feeds directly,” he said. “We have volume issues. It’s hard to see things that are important. Those indicators are increasingly having high false positive rates. Adversaries are adapting their strategies.

“Now we have to provide more enrichment and context to those indicators,” Ware added. “All of that means not only more data, but more ways to move data, more ways to analytically integrate data, more ways to verify the veracity of the data that you have. It’s profound at any scale.”

Agencies are beginning to look at new ways of organizing their IT in the first place to allow better data sharing. John Sherman, the intelligence community CIO, said that the 17 agencies that make up the IC are working toward a common reference architecture, which provides a template on which they can build their own systems yet still be able to work together.

“I want that analyst at NSA or CIA or NGA working that missile issue to have at her fingertips the data she needs, when she needs it, with the greatest reliability possible,” he said.

Halloran, whose agency has about half of its applications and systems in the cloud already, said that each agency has to find the place where value and savings will occur for itself. “Every system is not going to be the same solution,” she said.

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