Some of the most forward-operational elements of the United States federal government are making strides in leveraging data through hybrid cloud environments—and they’re constantly evaluating progress and recalibrating their approaches along the way. At agencies including the Army and the State Department, work is well underway to find ways of employing emerging technologies that build on cloud services and data optimization to realize new levels of effectiveness.
“There is so much innovation happening in the industry and across [the Defense Department]—a multi-cloud strategy delivers us options,” said Dr. Portia Crowe, chief data officer of Army Futures Command’s Network Cross-Functional Team. “As new and emerging trends come online, we need to make sure we architect and we engineer the things we use cloud for in a way that allows us to avoid vendor lock-in and take advantage of that rich innovation.”
In the Army, the use of cloud varies according to mission and location, but it’s always critical to get the right data to the right users in the right location—a top priority for Crowe. Speaking at Cloudera’s Data Cloud Summit recently, she noted that the Army has a data strategy and a cloud strategy to help ensure that priority is met.
“We’re always looking at affordability, making sure we’re getting the right data to users,” Crowe said, using the example of tactical users as part of the cloud calculus. “Geographically, where do we store compute power? For the disconnected soldier, is it locally? … This is where mobility and elasticity really come into play, especially as we look at AI at the edge and doing analytics in real-time.”
It’s not such a different premise for State Department users, according to Brian Merrick, director of the State Department’s Cloud Program Management Office. Speaking alongside Crowe in the virtual panel session, Merrick said his office is working to help provide the centralized cloud platform infrastructure and services to support diplomatic missions overseas in mobile environments. He noted that means supporting the agency’s 275 posts, 110,000 users, and 47 major organizations—all performing different functions.
“We’re using a Cloud Smart-type strategy, focusing on value-add activities,” Merrick said, adding that field requirements most often inform how the agency leans forward in cloud, such as needs around the global provision of data. “It’s really mission-driven. Missions that need real-time collaboration…we’re looking to leverage cloud-first there.”
The Freedom to Test-Drive the Latest and Greatest
Both Crowe and Merrick emphasized that their top priorities when it comes to leveraging cloud are to take advantage of the benefits of emerging technologies while avoiding vendor lock-in and reducing costs.
“We’re constantly trying to strike that balance between interoperability and consistent management of these platforms, trying to get the most out of the platforms,” he said.
New trends in technology that most intrigue Crowe and Merrick include container technologies and their seamless management, as well as new applications for AI and machine learning at the edge. The State Department has already begun looking at “bots” to try to streamline repetitive business functions and augment call center services. The department has emerging program areas that could really benefit from pre-decisional vetting processes, Merrick said.
At Futures Command, Army IT leaders are evaluating ways to expand their container technologies to find the right balance between automation and security.
“Smart technologies when it comes to cloud—that’s really key for us,” Crowe said, emphasizing the need for flexibility as they evaluate emerging trends. “No matter what we do, it all comes down to the data. We have to make sure the data is visible, accessible, understandable, linked, trustworthy, interoperable and secure.”,
With the use of Cloudera data services, reliable data analytics can be produced in real-time, including at the edge. Cloudera cloud services support the entire modernization journey, unveil new avenues of mission innovation, and, most of all, help federal agencies safeguard the nation.