Plenty of challenges at FDA means opportunity for contractors

With FDA touching 25 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product the agency has plenty of work to do and a lot of challenges that industry can help with.

Speaking at Washington Technology’s Health and Human Services Industry Day on Thursday, deputy CIO and director of the Office of Technology and Delivery at FDA went over some of these challenges and outlined how contractors might help.

The agency needs to be highly available, Wintermute said. That means more streamlined business processes and reduced operations and maintenance costs for systems. If a company submits a new drug for approval, he said, the agency has to be able to work with that data very quickly despite its other obligations.

“We’re focused on data management automation,” he added, in order for the agency to keep up with industry and business changes as well as the increased volume in data storage and back-up.

“What we are doing internally, we want to automate. We want to automate as much as possible. ” Wintermute said, which will call for data center solutions that agile and scalable.

Another challenge is wide area network (WAN) optimization. “Because of our locations in the field, we want to make sure we can get the data and forth.

With most of the government, however, budget issues underscore all of FDA’s challenges. The question, Wintermute asked, is how to do more with less?

Along with other agencies, too, FDA faces challenges when it comes to cloud computing, but the agency does have several applications already hosted in the cloud. The key, Wintermute said, is finding a way to provide a more agile and flexile infrastructure through software defined networking, containerization and automated testing.

Going hand-in-hand with the cloud is securing the agency’s infrastructure, including assets, networks and systems. The FDA is looking do this through proactive monitoring and non-disruptive patch management.

But one of the biggest challenges the agency faces is mobility.

“We’re really on just the front end of mobility for the agency,” Wintermute said. Using Baltimore as an example, he asked the audience to imagine being in a shipping container. “Cell phone signals don’t work very well in those things,” he said. “You have to be able to have mobile decides that can capture data and then sync up when you come back into signal range.”

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at mhoover@washingtontechnology.com, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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