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FCW : July 30, 2015
Technology 18 July 30, 2015 FCW.COM developers for help, they were told the applications could not be built at all. So they decided to develop their own software, aimed initially at internal needs for human resources, security training and personnel management activities. The resulting Web-based application now comprises some 110 modules and is available to government and nongovernment entities as the Open Source Corporate Management Information System. The open-source community’s credo of reusing software modules is becoming a standard way for agencies to spread the cost of software development among many users and thereby benefit from some of the volume-based advantages of COTS. The Department of Health and Human Services, for example, has made reuse part of its enterprise architecture principles, one of which states that HHS “evaluates invest- ments against business requirements and service needs, with a philosophy of first reuse, then buy, then build.” More recently, the General Services Administration latched onto reuse as a major driver for its IT projects. In 2014, then- CIO Sonny Hashmi made “platform reuse first” one of the nine key principles that would guide the agency’s IT mod- ernization. In doing so, he essentially melded open-source with cloud-first policies. Capitalizing on GSA’s existing investment in common appli- cation and infrastructure platforms “not only reduces IT costs and complexity, it also reduces the burden on GSA’s end users by reducing the number of disparate applications and tools they need to learn and access,” Hashmi said at the time. He added that he hoped the approach would eventually lead GSA to build custom solutions for no more than 20 percent of projects. Cloud can cut down on the one-offs Deciding whether to borrow, buy or build requires a clear- eyed assessment of an agency’s particular needs and a broad understanding of what existing solutions can and cannot do, said Dave Zvenyach, director of acquisition and management at GSA’s 18F. “In practice, much — if not most — of the things we need in government are very similar to needs experienced outside of government,” Zvenyach said. “In those cases, we borrow or buy. But where the government’s needs differ, we’ll look to borrow or build.” Over time, he added, the hope is that the number of situa- tions in which open-source solutions are borrowed will out- number the situations in which they must be built. However, some agencies will continue to need custom applications. For instance, the classified networks of intel- ligence agencies and some parts of the Defense Department cannot securely be connected to the Internet, which means that DOD and the intelligence community have missed out on some of the advantages of cloud services. That could be changing, though. “The intelligence community has started to look at how to solve that problem by having public cloud providers come in and build a public cloud in a government facility,” said Stan Tyliszczak, staff vice president for technology integra- tion and chief engineer at General Dynamics IT. “That gives them all the advantages of public cloud technology and the expertise associated with that, while still operating in a constrained environment where the physical and virtual access to resources is restricted for anyone who is not in the community.” Last year, the CIA took the leap into the cloud after strik- ing a $600 million deal with Amazon Web Services in 2013 to develop a private cloud for the 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community. Now users at those agencies can get a variety of computing and analytical services on demand from the CIA and the National Security Agency. The deal was the result of a longtime effort by the CIA to boost the performance of its data centers and provide its analysts with better tools. It gives the agency “the flexibility to optimize resources across different workloads at different Platform reuse “not only reduces IT costs and complexity, it also reduces the burden on GSA’s end users by reducing the number of disparate applications and tools they need to learn and access.” — BOX’S SONNY HASHMI, FORMER GSA CIO 0730fcw_016-019.indd 18 7/14/15 9:10 AM
July 15, 2015
August 15, 2015