COMMENTARY

Lockheed's Linda Gooden makes the case for cloud computing

Partnerships within industry and with government are critical for fulfilling cloud's promise

Linda Gooden is executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Services.

In the three decades that I have been a part of this industry, I have seen information technology grow to support and enable the entire government enterprise — from the back office to the front lines. Today, advanced IT solutions are improving the efficiency of all federal agencies.

For those of us who have seen this business evolve, cloud computing is the latest example of the transformative impact of information technology. It’s been referred to as a new business model, a technology enabler and a movement. And it comes at a time when it’s needed more than ever as the government is being pressed to do more with less. It holds great promise for significantly reducing infrastructure and application development costs while giving the user easy access to data and services from any device.

Cloud computing is touching us both at home and at work. Technology consumers have grown accustomed to fast and easy data access afforded by the cloud. The iPhone, for example, offers access to more than 100,000 applications, with roughly 8,000 new apps being approved each week. Press an icon and gain instant access to applications. The apps represent software as a service, and the cloud is the data center comprising the hardware and software.

These consumer experiences are shaping our government customers’ expectations at a time when their budget and operational mission demands are requiring a more agile, do-more-with-less approach. Agencies face tighter budgets for new procurements in an environment where infrastructure already consumes roughly 20 percent of what is now an $80 billion federal government IT budget. This drives agencies to seek faster returns on investments and more life from their assets.

To compound the challenges, Moore’s Law continues to outpace typical government procurement cycles of 12 to 18 months while IT operations grow in both scope and complexity. At this pace, how does a chief information officer manage and control infrastructure costs?

Enter cloud computing. A recent forecast from Market Research Media predicts a $26.1 billion U.S. federal cloud computing market from 2010 to 2015. Part of the challenge is defining what this market encompasses.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has a specific definition of cloud computing as “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three delivery models, and four deployment models.”

This is a useful and powerful operational definition that can help government CIOs discern the right solution to address their agency-specific agility and cost challenges. The five characteristics are:

  • On-demand service.
  • Ubiquitous network access.
  • Location independent resource pooling.
  • Rapid elasticity.
  • Measured service.

The three delivery models are: software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service. And the four deployment models are: private, public, community and hybrid clouds.

Choosing the right combination of these characteristics is a balance driven by the customers’ missions and requirements. Public clouds offer a faster, cheaper, better way to implement cloud computing if agility is the main driver. If security is the dominant requirement, private clouds, which reside within a customers’ enterprise infrastructure, are more widely deployed, though they might take longer to implement and realize a return on investment.

Government agencies share many common goals, yet their missions are widely diverse, as are their requirements for availability, performance, reliability and security. From a security perspective, customers are most concerned about privacy, confidentiality, and integrity. These requirements must be addressed early on.

To inform and support its customers, Lockheed Martin’s new Cyber Security Alliance partners have incorporated their cloud offerings within our NexGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Center, which we opened in Maryland last year. Our partners include: APC by Schneider Electric, CA, Cisco, Dell, EMC Corp. and its RSA Security Division, HP, Intel, Juniper Networks, McAfee, Microsoft, NetApp, VMware, and Symantec. Within the NexGen center, customers can learn about cloud platforms and also simulate their environments on a cyber range to test the functionality and security of cloud application scenarios.

I firmly believe that such collaboration with our industry partners and government customers is key to successfully implementing cloud computing in government. Instead of seeing industry in a competitive light, I envision a consultative approach that enables the delivery of the most suitable technologies to meet agency mission requirements. Together, we can deliver high-performance, low-cost cloud solutions.

Envisioning the future of cloud computing in government is a little like predicting the weather, and any forecast must be based on the current customer environment, or conditions. There are numerous benefits to bringing cloud computing to government customers. IT solution providers will play a pivotal role in its adoption.

But what will it take?

To move cloud computing from a vision to reality, the government IT industry must work together to leverage the best of cloud computing technologies and systems integration experience to bring customers a suite of on-demand solutions that deliver benefits and superior value.

This vision requires the development of new cloud computing solutions for government using IT infrastructure as the mission enabler. Like many consumer applications we use today, our customers will have seamless access to data and applications while reaping all the benefits: rapid application delivery, reduced capital expenditures and improved IT efficiency.

With domain knowledge as our barometer, technology providers and integrators are uniquely positioned to offer our government customers gradual steps to adoption using virtualization for noncritical applications as a steppingstone. The need for security and protection of highly sensitive data will likely lead customers into private clouds where significant cost reductions cannot be fully realized.

Nonetheless, adoption will clearly occur over time with agency programs such as the IT Dashboard, the Rapid Access Computing Environment, Nebula and National Business Center leading the charge. And in the months ahead, we will see more innovation in a short time frame. It’s really no longer a matter of “why” cloud computing, it’s a matter of “when.”

Reader Comments

Thu, May 6, 2010

I completely agree with the above comment. I can see the cloud help in e.g. distributed (open source) source-code development, but privacy and in general control over the computing platform are too valuable...

Wed, May 5, 2010 Gary OH

Consider me old fashioned, but I want my data on my machine, with access without needing a network connection. I want the privacy network-located data cannot provide. And I want my programs, such as MS Office, or OpenOffice, or games, or whatever else I choose to run, on my machine. Maybe the cloud works in an office, but my experiences in these cases was also negative, as I was always at the mercy of the network connection.

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