Embracing the Change

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Your shiny new car is delivered – it’s normally a cause for celebration! The sales literature assured you it will be an altogether more rewarding experience than your last ride. That’s how I felt about my first opportunity to vote in the last elections. As a shiny new American citizen I was, and remain, chock full of hope. First time voter, long time fan!

Spending time in Washington in this new administration, one does indeed get the sense that there is a new sheriff in town. I’ve observed a new energy and an urgency of execution.

I’m pleased to see west coast IT luminaries play a role and be part of the IT transformational solution. Tim O’Reilly and Craig Newmark come to mind, and I’m certain there will be many more west coasters raising their hands to assist.

It was a great pleasure to meet Vivek Kundra, the new Federal CIO. His message is clear and consistent: he wants openness and operational efficiency, and gone are the days of crazy contracts to design something bespoke, when a perfectly good commercial solution is out there and available for delivery today. Imagine a virtual storefront of ready-made government apps to choose from, pick one and go. We clearly all have a role to play in marching to the efficiency drum, be it operational efficiency, natural resource efficiency or even human capital efficiency.

Vivek exudes a sense of much needed urgency, aware that technologies change rapidly, and procurement needs to keep pace with those changes.

An early example of that accelerated execution was the Federal dashboard. No sooner was the notion floated, than it seemed to appear for all to see and benefit from. And if that wasn’t enough, it is both pleasing to the eye and doesn’t require a decoder ring to understand. Try searching for Federal IT spending by state, then rank by single source contracts. It’s easy and truly gives an everyman view into how our tax dollars are being spent.

I’m something of a fan of his five pillars. His putting a stake in the ground (well, five in this instance!) gives the rest of us something to march to. Nobody can look back in anger and say, “I didn’t know what the plan was, or where you were taking us, Vivek!”

I’m pleased to work in an exciting technical sector where our solutions clearly advance on a generation-by-generation basis. From a data center perspective, it isn’t the cost of buying new servers that folk need to worry about, but the cost of keeping the old ones powered up and cooled down. Those who shore up ‘old iron’ instead of investing in an energy efficient fully virtualized network lag behind their peers in other agencies, who have a defined refresh cycle, crunch their numbers faster, and use far less electricity in the process.

Intel has been only too pleased to share our IT knowledge and best practices with Government agencies, or anyone for that matter looking to do IT better. At the end of the day, Intel’s concerns aren’t too different from that of Federal agencies: keeping the unwelcome out of our internal systems while allowing our employees appropriate access privileges, all on a global basis with about 100,000 servers operational today (yes our network is that big!) while supporting Teleworking, mobility and cloud computing where appropriate.

On a recent government VIP tour of one of our data centers, the VIP asked the question, how many people work in this building? The answer was just one, and that one person is tasked with building security. Gone are the days, for us at least, where admins roam up and down the server racks manually plugging in CAT5 cables whilst precariously balancing laptops.

On the subject of the cloud, another word needs to come into the equation: interoperability. Our customers are already asking us to help create an open standard that will run across all hardware platforms. It doesn’t exist today, and getting there won’t happen overnight. Disparate cloud-based networks must be capable of seamless and secure data transfer with each other; otherwise we’ll engineer ourselves into an expensive VHS/Betamax corner.

Cloud computing from an operational flexibility and cost savings perspective is clearly attractive, but it is not in my opinion the all-encompassing IT panacea. Let me explain.

If your agency embraces mobility as an efficiency tool as much of industry does, then you must be aware that the pipe (connectivity) is not realistically available 100% of the time, and when the next natural or manmade disaster strikes, then connectivity can and probably will go down. Katrina comes to mind as a prime example, with the American Red Cross entering the details of the thousands of displaced persons into the local database residing on numerous laptops that had no connectivity to the outside world, and wouldn’t have for many days.

If you have a mandate saying you must have a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), achieving that will probably require localized storage and data execution, as absolute reliance on remote connectivity during a disaster is unrealistic. All it takes is one backhoe at the end of the day.

Our new President has been very vocal about his support for Telework and the work/life balance, and I’m right there with him. The benefits for both employees and employers so far outweigh the negatives. A recent piece of editorial from Harvard Business publishing spoke well on the subject, and makes for a good and concise read: http://hbdm.harvardbusiness.org/email/archive/managementtip.php?date=073009

I’m out of time, if you made it this far I thank you, and if my jumping from subject to subject threw you a bit of a curveball, then just take comfort in the fact that I’m far more random in the flesh!

These are of course my own thoughts and mutterings and do not constitute official statements by Intel.

You can find me on Twitter as ‘Bowlieweekender’ just don’t expect every tweet to be IT related, I do have a life outside of Intel and I do value my work/life balance!

Cheers, Nigel

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