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FCW : December 2013
December 2013 FCW.COM 19 said. "Pressure is not the right word. It s not oversight, it s helping your people understand priorities. I hope people didn t see it as micromanagement. I think the results speak for themselves." A work in progress Michael Meskill, the lead cloud solu- tions architect on the project and the winner of an FCW Rising Star award this year, was instrumental in improv- ing the performance of USDA s cloud service while saving money on physical infrastructure. He rates the team envi- ronment at NITC very highly. "Forming a team of talented people and deploying a solution that will ben- e t a vast number of people throughout the country is the sort of opportunity that seldom presents itself in most IT jobs," he said. He added that he expects USDA s cloud service to be giving Ama- zon and Rackspace some serious com- petition in the coming years. USDA CIO Cheryl Cook said new ef ciencies and improvements to the USDA cloud have lowered the costs for customers and resulted in more than $20 million in savings in the past s- cal year. Users outside USDA include the Labor Department s bene ts of ce, the Department of Homeland Securi- ty s Of ce of Inspector General and a number of sites hosted by the General Services Administration, including the Federal Acquisition Institute. The FedRAMP recognition is also serving as a useful publicity tool. Unlike its private-sector competitors, NITC has no budget to market its services. Instead, a new three-person team in USDA s Washington, D.C., headquarters will handle local business, and Steven talks up the service to other agencies when he s in town --- what he calls "get- ting up and down Constitution Avenue." According to Cook, the agency is tak- ing about a dozen calls a week from prospective clients, including state and local governments. That is a fruitful market for USDA given its work with agricultural communities nationwide. NITC is under constant pressure from customers to expand its offerings. Next year, of cials plan to add software- de ned networking and enhanced pro- visioning so that users can change their capacity on demand rather than wait for requests to be processed. In the event that USDA exceeds its own capacity, of cials have a deal with Verizon Ter- remark to supply additional hosting resources. The attitude at NITC is that the USDA cloud is a work in progress. Steven keeps in touch with customers via a portfolio services group and taps industry representatives for insight into the next growth areas and to test new equipment to see if it meets the needs of USDA s users. "I like to think we want to stay in midstream," Steven said. "We don t want to tie up to the dock because everybody else passes you by." ■ A dozen other teams to study FCW's sister publication GCN annually honors outstanding achievement by government IT project teams. This year's awards recognized the following efforts (full pro les can be found on GCN.com): 1. Agriculture Department's Risk Management Agency: Data ware- house for tracking crop insurance program compliance 2. Centers for Medicare and Med- icaid Services: Medicare.gov's responsive design 3. Defense Department's Expe- ditionary Business Operations: Central Command contingency business tools 4. Defense Manpower Data Cen- ter: Remote proo ng of self- service logon 5. Department of Homeland Security: Homeland Security Information Network 6. Environmental Protection Agency: How's My Waterway? 7. NASA: 2013 International Space Apps Challenge 8. National Archives and Records Administration: Cloud-based email 9. Naval Air Systems Command: Sea trial of a 4G LTE network 10. Treasury Department: Finan- cial Crimes Enforcement Net- work/Bank Secrecy Act IT mod- ernization program 11. U.S. Army: Distributed Com- mon Ground System-Army Standard Cloud architecture 12. U.S. Coast Guard: Tactical Routing of Information over a Deployable and Extensible Net- work project "Forming a team of talented people and deploying a solution that will bene t a vast number of people throughout the country is the sort of opportunity that seldom presents itself in most IT jobs." MICHAEL MESKILL
November 30, 2013