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Knock, Knock – Who’s There?
Is Uncle Sam suffering from a false sense of security? We spend one in four precious cyber security dollars on FISMA paperwork – well over $1 billion each year. GAO says HSPD-12 has given us expensive keys with no locks. TIC’s fighting with Cloud First. The iPad’s a moving target. What’s next for the embattled CISO?
And, if that wasn’t enough alphabet soup, here’s a new TLA for you – welcome to the Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs to his friends. APTs aren’t things, they’re sophisticated actors – typically hostile foreign governments – with the cyber smarts and resources to target specific entities. No script kiddies here. They’re focused on getting into our networks and siphoning off sensitive data. And, they use infected media, supply chain compromise, and social engineering to get in.
Think of APTs as very malicious knock-knock jokes – and hackers are focused on getting the last laugh. APTs typically launch their attacks via email – phishing, but not your standard “Nigerian Prince Kidnapping” scam. What Fed exec would fall for that malarkey?
No, APTs often hunt their quarry by spear phishing. Think phishing meets social engineering. Far from sending out blanket spam email, hackers identify high-impact, well-placed individuals within agencies – people with privileged security access. Then, they do their homework. Who do you know? What type of email would catch your attention? When the knock-knock comes in your email, you’ll know the sender of the message – or think that you do.
You’ve Got Mail
You receive an email from your colleague Dave. It flags a new expense approval process and includes an attachment. You know Dave, you care about your expenses, you click on the attachment. The hacker’s in. Now, they have a foothold in the network. Some are coy – they stay quiet for awhile. But soon enough, they start to siphon off data, passwords, and connect to other networks from the inside.
Depending on how deep into the APT you want to go you could ask, how valuable are your users’ web browsing histories and habits? If they’re valuable enough for the USDA, (http://www.dm.usda.gov/privacy/) why wouldn’t a foreign state embed malicious code into a website that your execs are likely to, or do, visit? Still think we shouldn’t secure the networked printers? A quick look at the logs of the URLs being printed by users can reveal a lot – pedicure anyone?
Chumming the Water
No Laughing Matter
The net takeaway here – phishing’s not just for scammers. It’s really grown up. And, the biggest threats to Federal security may come from the people you know and trust – or appear to…
The world’s a hostile place. Cyber’s the new frontier. We need to unfetter Uncle Sam’s cyber defenders to prioritize threats and put first things first. If we spend too much on compliance, the last laugh will be on America.
We need to refocus on APTs and a new class of phishing – it’s no joke.
The fox and the hen house. As the deadlines for response to GSA and DISA Cloud Broker RFIs came and went this fall - I had to wonder what questions would be made public - and what answers would be forthcoming? Are these public opportunities for input real - or merely a mollifying maneuver?
Well, here are a few questions that will definitely make it into the court of public opinion.
Why are GSA and DISA giving up their natural role as stewards of the public purse?
Why do we need intermediaries to “broker” cloud solutions for agencies?
Why can’t agencies buy services directly from industry - or through GSA schedules or DISA service catalogues - as they’ve always done?
What makes cloud different – isn’t buying cloud supposed to be the same as buying dial tone?
Why do agencies need to go through an industry broker to get to Google or Amazon or whosoever?
What’s the value add - and how much more will the additional layer cost Uncle Sam?
Is GSA so beaten from its contracting gaffes on Alliance and the like - and so embarrassed by Vegas ventures - that it’s ready to give up its reason for being?
And if so, what’s the future for GSA and DISA in a cloud world - does Uncle Sam need them?
And, last but not least - the fox and the hen house. Does it make sense for industry brokers to do the IV&V work and offer the solution?
Smart shops like SAIC are splitting in two to avoid OCI. Cat among the pigeons. Tin open, worms everywhere…
Green Bay & LPTA
Vince Lombardi is turning in his grave.
Seems going cheap really is more expensive.
Uncle Sam can learn a thing or two from Monday’s game.
Forced to make contracts LPTA, many agencies are saving small, but losing big.
Too bad government’s not a game.
As Putin preens, Russians are leery of a new Berlin Wall. Cuba’s not exactly Fidel friendly. Let’s face it - nobody wants into the cage. But, certain folks on Capitol Hill seem bent on terrorizing telework - the Issa Inquisition... In an election year, Feds too often become political punching bags. Let’s make sure we send a strong signal that the Telework genie ain’t going back in the bottle.
Let’s not let GSA’s “Hawaii Kai” snowball into Why Telework? Nobody’d defend GSA’s $750K telework travel tab - but, let’s not let one bad apple spoil the barrel for all Feds. Yes, it wasted money. Yes, it showed poor judgment. But, consider, Uncle Sam spends more than $16 billion a year on business travel. We need to look at both sides of the balance sheet. The real question here - how much do properly managed telework programs save agencies and tax payers? And, remember GSA has a proud heritage in telework - consider greats like Billy Michael and Dr. Wendell Joice. Lots of GSA folks are teleworking within the rules.
And, rather than cut back on telework, there’s a strong case for Feds to double down. Telework Exchange just released a new study, Fly Me to Your Room, that shows video’s value. Here are the vital stats. Just 36 percent of Feds use video conferencing today. Video will cut 3.5 hours in travel time for each Fed each week. That’s $8 billion - with a B - in productivity savings if only half Feds use video. And, Feds are optimistic - 84 percent think videoconferencing usage will increase in the next five years.
Pennsylvania Avenue makes Savile Row look like a flea market. You see, nowhere in the world will you find so many organizations gadding ‘round town in tailor-made IT duds. A new MeriTalk study on Mission-Critical Cloud – McCloud, if you will - provides a unique glimpse into Uncle Sam’s application wardrobe. And, Yankee Doodle’s dandy IT ways are expensive. The study tells us Feds spend more than half the $78.9 billion IT budget on mission-critical apps.
FIPS Like a Glove?
The ultimate IT fashion critic, Dave Powner at GAO, tells us there are 600 HR systems in the Federal government. Fed IT execs in the study follow suit - noting that 52 percent of Federal mission-critical applications are custom built. This bespoke barrier makes mainstream movement to the cloud cost prohibitive - 45 percent of Fed IT execs say it would take major reengineering to modernize today’s apps for the cloud.
McCloud and Moolah
That said, it’s not all damp flannel and the smell of old mothballs. Fed IT’s motivated to dump the sad rags. IT execs in the study project we could save $16.6 billion by moving three mission-critical apps to the cloud in each agency. And, it’s more than window shopping. Respondents note that their agency is buying McCloud.
And, it’s insightful to get an eyeful of the McCloud fashion. In light of the complexity of legacy apps - not just security concerns - Feds are opting for private McCloud. Of Feds wearing McCloud, 38 percent have opted for the private cut. But, private’s not the only hip look - 11 percent have moved to hybrid and 10 percent have opted for public McClouds.
McCloud and McClure
With the rush to private cloud, Feds are scratching their heads about why FedRAMP’s so much in vogue. If FedRAMP only applies to public clouds - if more than half IT spend is on mission-critical apps - and if most agencies are slipping into private clouds - isn’t GSA’s baby in danger of becoming IT bell bottoms, or worse still, the ascot?
Lose the Lid?
Looking to the future, agencies like the cut of McCloud’s jib. Fed IT execs predict that 26 percent of mission-critical apps will slip into cloud in the next two years - and 44 percent in five years. Sounds like McCloud is to traditional enterprise IT, what JFK or Elvis were for the hat - many Feds plan to trade in classic mission-critical couture for McCloud mojo. That said, it’s certainly not a mass movement today - due to app complexity, many agencies plan to leave the hat on.
Want to get hip on new McCloud trends? Download the new study at www.meritalk.com/missioncriticalcloud. And, Fed fashionistas can also pull up a seat by the catwalk for the webinar, Wednesday, October 17th, at 1:00 p.m. EDT - http://www.meritalk.com/missioncriticalcloudwebinar. Be there or be square…
Jeopardy. The world’s biggest switching and routing company. That’s easy Alex - who is Cisco? Wrong. Err, Juniper. Is that your final answer? Okay Regis, who is Avaya? Focus, please - try again. Brocade. Come on now. The correct answer - who is Ericson? Surprised? I was. Always interesting reading the Economist.
But more interesting than Ericson’s primacy, is the number-two player - the company poised to switch places with Ericson. Huawei - pronounced wah-way, not to be confused with the Pennsylvania 711 outfit. Not only are the U.S. players smaller than I could have imagined, the North American market looks like old tins and bits of string.
Who is Huawei?
Founded by Ren Zhengfei in 1987 with about $5,000, Huawei rode the soaring dragon of China’s modernization to post $16 billion in revenue for the first half of 2012. Labeled a “pirate” for allegedly shanghaing Cisco’s IP in the early days, today Huawei ranks among the IT industry’s most prodigious registrants of patents. Headquartered in Shenzhen, the company operates in 140 countries worldwide. It employs almost 150,000. And, hold onto your rice bowl for the revenue explosion - $32 billion for 2011, 10-fold growth in a single decade.
But what does the rising dragon mean for the West, the U.S. market, and Uncle Sam? Huawei’s strength in EMEA is not just about low-balling in Africa. Huawei has won big 4G wireless plumbing contracts in Europe. While India and Australia have blocked market entry, Canada has welcomed Huawei onto the network. The company does a lot of business with the U.K. government - it hired her majesty’s CIO to bridge the language and the trust gap. While the U.S. market’s small versus Asia Pac and EMEA, Huawei has little to no penetration - and we’re clearly on the menu for growth. And yes, that means D.C. too - Andy Purdy, former head of DHS NCSD just stepped onto Huawei’s payroll.
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves…”
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) led the charge against Chinese IT in 2006 when he tilted at a State Department award to Lenovo for laptops. There are security supply chain concerns hanging over Huawei - covert connections - although no proof of any sleight of hand. Let's go back to Jeopardy for the dismount...
What if Huawei is LPTA, will Uncle Sam buy? The iPad’s made in China - and Feds are eating them like fortune cookies. What if Huawei makes its products in America? And then the bigger picture questions. What will Uncle Sam do if the technology leadership goes West - off the coast of California? Can we afford to trade Apple pie for low cost, high innovation in a budget constrained world? And, if we’re going to erect barriers to imports, what does that mean for U.S. tech exports…?
IT Moves on @ DoT
This is not your father’s DoT IT. Ain’t it appropriate that the ‘90s car tagline fits - except, where it was an empty tagline at Oldsmobile, the change engine is firing on all six at DoT. I had the opportunity to pull up alongside Nitin Pradhan, CIO at Transportation, recently. And, yes, he did remind me a little of Lee Iaccoca.
No, I’m not talking Austin Powers - more on the turn maneuver later.
Putting the car in first, Pradhan focused on two stakeholder communities - IT and the business owners. “This is not an either/or proposition,” he underlined. “To win, we need to get both parties to embrace change - and, critically, to enhance the relationship on both the supply and demand sides to achieve the mission.”
“We knew we had to take a new approach - and that a lot had to change,” said Pradhan. “So, we decided to unleash 100 new ideas - agile, small changes. We also knew every model would not succeed. The idea was to listen to our customers - and prototype iteratively.” And, yes, there was an Edsall or two in the new line up. “Eighty five or so of our 100 crossed the finish line. As other change vehicles sputtered, we just waved them into the pit lane. To effectively change, you need to experiment. The secret is to listen to the customer, place a lot of small bets, and watch carefully.”
“BHP’s not Break Horse Power, it’s Better Human Performance - that was the number-one priority in our IT makeover,” said Pradhan. “We have lots of IT folks at DoT. As people retire or leave, we encourage managers to downgrade appropriate positions, freeing up some much needed financial resources for hiring a sea of talented pros and paid interns and have them coached and mentored by our experienced, expert professionals. Like an internal combustion engine, you need spark then compression to generate horsepower. Young people and new ideas spark change - experienced experts manage change.”
“Like most Federal IT departments, we don’t have sufficient IT training dollars - bringing in new young folks to energize the workforce is great, but we needed training for new recruits,” said Pradhan. “Let me underline that young folks are great, but we also need to retain the valuable experienced employees we have today in the department. If you don’t invest in your team’s skills, the good folks leave and the remainder quickly become irrelevant in the face of rapid tech change. So, we started our own internal training academy.”
“We invited CIOs from tech leaders to come in and present to our IT teams,” said Pradhan. “Oracle, IBM, Boeing quickly lined up on the ramp. And, we reached beyond IT.” He explained how the Chief Innovation Officer from VW and many other industry titans pulled into the visitor spot at DoT. Next, Pradhan focused on harnessing the knowledge of innovative technology vendors. “We have hundreds calling us to sell new products and we needed to create a win-win” so DoT set up the Technology Evaluation and Learning Series (TELS), a forum to discuss new technologies applicable to DoT. “These are not sales pitches but serious, rounded discussions around a particular technology and the business value it can deliver for DoT.”
“Our training academy has proved a big hit. The opportunity to learn from the best and brightest - on the latest - all for free,” grinned Pradhan. “And, most captured on video so that our personnel can access on demand any time. Live and on demand - that’s a great hybrid training strategy. We’ve got great mileage out of a non-existent training budget. And our morale in IT has never been higher.”
But Pradhan realized that DoT would not succeed even if IT delivered significant improvements working with the IT staff and the business owners. A third, and critical audience, needed to rev it up. “Contractors are critical - and that means we understand, respect and partner with them to maximize public value,” said Pradhan.
“We wanted to motivate and inspire a new generation of agile, innovative companies - and that means spending time with start ups and high-growth companies.” The challenge for Pradhan was how to find the time to meet with, and mentor contractors, while engaging other internal stakeholders. Here's that innovation thing again. Pradhan lives in Reston. He would pick up contractors and they would ride with him on his commute to and from the DoT office in Southeast D.C. “It provided a great opportunity for real conversations.”
And, yes, with DoT’s IT on the move, I regret to inform, so is Nitin Pradhan. Since we chatted, he’s left DoT to launch “Public Private Innovations" the nation's first Federal technology accelerator program to grow the next generation of companies, products, and service for the public sector. "Public value with private growth" is his mantra - stay tuned for more news on Twitter @NitinPradhanCIO. The upside, as DoT watches Pradhan in the rear view mirror, it’s great to have Tim Schmidt in the driver’s seat. Schmidt’s got both hands on the wheel and his foot on the gas.
IT by the Cup?
How to pay for Fed IT with shrinking budgets? With all the talk of cloud, how’re we IT nerds lining up with the bean counters? Is IT swallowing the new by-the-cup OpEx funding flavor poured out in the President’s FY2013 budget brew?
A recent MeriTalk study, the Color of Money, provides new insight on the much ballyhooed CapEx/OpEx shift in Uncle Sam’s funding. The bean counters get it. Seventy percent of finance pros think OpEx funding will enhance Federal IT and 59 percent assert that OpEx will enable agencies to maintain a better grasp on overall IT portfolios.
IT’s not signing up so fast for the taste test. Just 36 percent of Federal IT pros are considering the OpEx funding jump. Remarkably, just 21 percent of IT pros are oblivious that a CapEx/OpEx switch is possible - let alone encouraged - in the President’s FY2013 budget.
Clear as Mud…
So, I hear you say, what qualifies as OpEx? Can agencies just lease the servers instead of buying the kettle? The short answer - depends…
You need to look at the Financial Accounting Standards Board - FASB 13 - regulations to make sense of it. And good luck. FASB 13 tells us leases need to be reported as capital expenses if:
1. It Ain’t Depreciating Quickly: The present value of the lease payments is at least 90 percent of the fair market value of the asset at the start of the lease
2. Agency Gets the Asset: Lease transfers ownership of the asset to the lessee by end of term of lease
3. Too Long: Lease term is 75 percent or more of the estimated economic life of the asset
4. Too Aggressive a Depreciation Schedule: Lessee can purchase the asset at a price below fair market value when the lease expires
And, if that’s not clear, you can take comfort from the fact that FASB is currently rewriting the standards for lease accounting.
Who needs FASB anyway? I hear you say. Sure you’re aware that Federal agencies have their own Statements of Federal Financial Accounting Concepts under the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB). That said, flip to concept five in your handy dandy FASAB handbook and you will learn that CapEx vs. OpEx is tied up in a discussion about what constitutes a Federal asset. Don’t worry though, those guidelines are expected to change in the near future too.
Reading the tea leaves from the study, we IT nerds need to sit down for a cup of coffee with the bean counters. The White House has to clarify and educate if the CapEx/OpEx directive is to become more than coffee talk. And, last but not least, we need clearer guidance on what qualifies as OpEx - this stuff is confusing. Change is hard - but we’re headed into a fiscal desert, and OpEx is the only tipple to slake IT’s thirst. Time to hold the nose and drink up - we’ll soon get used to the new taste.
FDCCI: The Numbers Game
Recent GAO report on FDCCI surfaces new stats - and gives long odds on the program achieving real savings. FDCCI is the program that cried wolf. Who isn’t tired of hearing how many data centers we have? How much we can save? How much we have saved?
But, here’s the beauty of it. Don’t like the numbers? Never fear. Wait a week or two - they’ll change again.
Change, Change, Change
Here’s the latest from GAO’s report. Almost 2,900 data centers. Last report from OMB it was 2,800. Plan to close 1,186 by 2015 - up from 106 per OMB’s last testimony. That leaves us with just 1,714. However will we make do? Here’s the bottom line, GAO tells us Feds believe they can save $2.4 billion through data center consolidation - optimistic, but short of OMB’s $3 billion or $5 billion savings estimates.
Black Eye for OMB and GSA
If I’m OMB and GSA - I’m more than a little red faced over this report. You see, GAO generated these numbers by reviewing agencies’ plans and talking with the experts in the field. This is a look under the covers at what’s really going on inside FDCCI - and, it ain’t pretty.
But, let’s cut beneath the counting and see what GAO says about agencies reporting against OMB guidelines. To net it out - or consolidate if you will - GAO’s report says agencies are thumbing their noses at OMB. They’re failing to report, they’re missing deadlines, and they’re rejecting OMB’s standardized cost model.
Of 24 agencies, just three submitted complete data center inventories. Only one submitted a complete plan. Thirteen did not provide a full master program schedule for consolidation. Twenty one did not fully report their expected savings.
Not What, But Why?
The question here is not what are agencies doing, but rather why are they doing it - or not doing it as the case may be?
Here’s the rub. While I have not seen OMB’s cost model, every agency data center lead I’ve talked to has said it is totally divorced from reality. And, I’ve spoken to a lot of them. Why doesn’t OMB publish it so we can all take a look? Where’s open government when you need it?
Why are agencies failing to make real progress in consolidating data centers? Well, that’s because it costs money to do this - and there is none. The deadlines are not realistic. The savings that were sold to Capitol Hill are not attainable - especially if there is no capital investment fund.
The parting shot in GAO’s executive summary speaks volumes.
“In light of these successes and challenges, it is important for OMB to continue to provide leadership and guidance, such as - as GAO previously recommended - using the consolidation task force to monitor agencies’ consolidation efforts.”
Maybe GSA and OMB should attend the next Data Center Exchange meeting? The breakfast on September 13 brings together Federal data center execs to talk about developing a government-wide data center marketplace. An open platform for agencies to buy and sell data center space - that actually might save some money.
Five Ring Circus
It’s official. The IOC just announced that Victoria’s Secret will dig in against the SI Swimsuits in beach volleyball in Brazil… I have to ask, NBC why so much beach volleyball? How many times did we need to endure Misty May flick gang signs to the camera?
What about the commentary overall? Shut up sometimes? Didn’t you want to choke that guy crowing about how McKayla Maroney was gold in the gymnastics vault before the competition began? Did he learn nothing from Titanic?
How about those incessant human interest stories? Why not use air time to cover the athletics? And, isn’t the Olympics primarily about track and field? How did we ever end up with so much field hockey, badminton, and handball - not to mention volleyball? Did anybody work out the rules of handball?
When covering the track events, would it be too much to ask for a heads up on the distance? How about covering all of the runners in the race - not just the Americans? Why so much coverage of Lolo Jones? I get that she's pretty, but what about covering Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, the two American ladies that actually won medals in this event?
Sure there were high points. Michael Phelps. Gold in gymnastics. The women’s soccer. But, this is a global contest - and wouldn’t it be nice if we covered the best athletes from around the world - not just the prettiest Americans, Usain Bolt, and Mo Farah?
All told - no medal for NBC’s coverage. And the parting shot? Making people endure a whole hour of Animal Practice to see The Who at the end of the closing ceremony. What’chu talkin’ ‘bout Bob Costas?
And, speaking of the closing ceremony, let’s close where we began - the opening ceremony. What were the Brits thinking? I actually watched the ceremony in London. The city echoed with the sound of the home team slapping each other on the back. Apart from QE2 and 007, the rest was incomprehensible. They might as well have performed the whole thing in Cockney Rhyming Slang - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HngRt7guls. Danny Boyle - might I suggest subtitles for your next production?
Turn That Frown Upside Down
MeriTalk puts out lots of studies. Cloud. Cyber security. Data centers. Big data. You name it, we’ve got the vital stats. But the downloads from the latest study stopped me in my tracks. You see, when almost every cabinet-level CIO downloads a study in the first week it’s published, you know you’ve struck a chord.
Unlike most MeriTalk studies, our latest, the Customer is Always Right, doesn’t tell us what IT thinks. Instead, it shines a light on what IT’s customers think of IT. Guess that’s why Federal CIOs have been pointing, clicking, and downloading.
So, what’s the skinny? Well, that depends on if you’re a half-full or half-empty person.
First, it gives us the Fed Fab Five - the top five agency IT departments as ranked by IT customers. Drum roll - like every good beauty pageant, let’s proceed in reverse order from five to one. Energy. Army. DHS. Treasury.
And, the number-one rated IT department in the Federal government. Wait for it. The Department of Labor. Congratulations Michael Kerr. Unless I’m wrong, this is the first ranking of IT that wasn’t scored by IT - and clearly some agencies are doing a great job.
But it’s not all swimsuits and bouquets. There’s some cold water too. For starters, just 46 percent of Fed execs view IT as an opportunity. Thirty two percent view it as a cost - and 22 percent are unsure whether it’s a cost or opportunity. A $78 billion budget line item with a 46 percent customer approval rating is a precarious position in a down economy. Further, none of the IT transformation megatrends show up as priorities for Fed execs. In fact, agency execs view IT as a support vs. transformational function - 56 percent see IT as a work horse supporting daily agency operations.
Less than a quarter of Fed execs say their agency uses IT to provide analytics to support decisions or identify areas for savings and increased efficiency - and these imperatives top Fed execs’ list of priorities. Hardly surprisingly, Fed execs believe that IT can do better - just 48 percent believe their agency leverages its IT department to the fullest extent.
So, here’s the half-full position again - it’s time to turn that frown upside down. Fed execs want more from IT - which is good for IT. Considering customers’ recommendations on how to improve Fed IT, it’s neck and neck at the front of the suggestion line - 54 percent of Fed execs want new tools and an overhaul of outdated IT systems and processes, respectively. Thirty seven percent want new mobile solutions. Significantly, leaders assert that IT should be involved earlier in leadership planning and they recommend more meaningful collaboration between IT developers and their customers.
Let’s face it, the first step to enlightenment is self awareness. IT can’t transform government efficiency without Fed execs’ support. CIOs’ interest in the study shows digitals get the drift. And, speaking of CIOs and the study, register to hear Nitin Pradhan, CIO at Department of Transportation, talk about the study on a webcast at 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday, August 23. Nitin’s customer-first approach is sure to put a smile on your face.
Greece and the Oracle
Just got back from Athens. Dad’s 70th - chasing antiquity. Stopped in on the Parthenon, Thermopylae, Sparta, and the Oracle at Delphi. Asked the Oracle, what’s in store?
But first, a little about Hellas - that’s what the Greek’s call themselves.
First thing you notice, it’s hot. Not D.C. hot - more like Africa hot. It’s a wonder anybody works at all. Don’t kick the dead dogs - they’re just resting.
Second, there are no young people - there are old people and infants. All the people of child-bearing age have gone elsewhere to find work.
Third, cash is king. Shopkeepers and hoteliers are allergic to plastic - it leaves a nasty tax trail.
Last, it’s not that Greeks are lazy - they’re just beaten. If there’s no way up, the smart man lies down. And, save your lectures - and don’t mention Merkel or bankers...
What wisdom did the Oracle impart?
One, Europe’s really a mess. It must unravel to cure itself. The Euro’s dead. When people are more interested in meting out blame than working out how to put food on the table, the future goes hungry.
Two, government is difficult. Charting a course between austerity and economic stimulus is like navigating between Charybdis and Scylla - a riddle for the Sphinx.
Three, America isn’t perfect - but it’s good to be home. We need to be honest about our problems. Don’t want to compromise - Hellas shows us great societies have crumbled before…
Motherboard and Apple Pie
My niece’s laptop blew out at college. Wouldn’t start. She called her dad. He bought her a new one. Took the dud home. Searched for a fix. Dismantled. Placed motherboard on tray and baked in oven for nine minutes at 385°. Reassembled. Fired right up.
Don’t try this in a microwave. A la mode PC, not recommended…
Want to see the future? Well, get an eyeful of the G men. Google’s Glasses are making a spectacle of innovation. Framed with a heads-up display, webcam, and GPS - these gizmo goggles promise to put the future right in front of your eyes. They make the iPad look - well, short sighted.
The Eyes Have IT
And, speaking of Apple, the Cupertino crowd isn’t blind to the spec trend. Word has it both Apple and camera maker Olympus are busy focusing on their own offerings. Watch this space. Is it true that RIM’s working on a comeback offering - the Black Eye?
Public Sector Prescription?
So what does this mean for Feds? Terminator tax men? Omniscient OIGs? Maybe...
What’s for sure is that the pace of tech change is accelerating - blink and you’ll miss it. Speed and the inevitable Chinese manufacturing spell challenges for government procurement.
On the upside, this could be the end of our texting and driving woes - but it could wake us up to a pantheon of peripheral-vision issues. This could mark the beginning of the end for mobile phones…
With the push to BYOD - will Uncle Sam soon sport Dolce & Gabbana shades? And, if you don't look good in glasses - what about computing contacts?
What’s the new four-letter word in government contracting? Yep, it’s LPTA - Low Price Technically Acceptable. The fowl language is flipping both government mission owners and contractors the bird. Sadly, contracting shops’ definition of TA is causing folks to call these contracts Tragic Acts.
Consider the recompete. An aggressive new contractor low bids an incumbent by 20 percent. The assailant’s proposal is predicated on rebadging all of the incumbent’s personnel - and hiring them at 30 percent less than they’re currently paid by the incumbent. That 10 percent is all profit margin. The government contracting shop awards to the assailant. The new contractor offers the existing workforce their same jobs at 30 percent less money. Who’d take a cut below their minimum wage? The existing workers quit their cubicles. The new contractor can’t perform. The government mission owner is compromised. Now the legal nonsense starts - and it’s not a quick process. As if it’s not enough that new primes are failing to honor their own teaming agreements and stealing from incumbent subcontractors...
Is it important that the government gets value for every dollar? Yes. Is competition good for America? Yes. Is LPTA making Uncle Sam penny wise...? Too often, yes.
Oh, and by the way, many good incumbent contractor companies, with strong past performance, are being ruined by this contracting lunacy. No wonder LPTA is being redefined as Lousy Product Tragic Act...
Who strummed the banjo and sang?
“Dressed in colors pink and pleasant,
Glows in the dark ‘cause it’s iridescent”
Yes. It’s Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. How many times have you struggled to find a movie line? Microsoft is fixin’ to help out. Have you heard about MAVIS? That’s slang for Microsoft Research Audio Video Indexing System.
MAVIS allows you to search full-motion video and multimedia content - like Google allows you to search the web. So what? Well, think beyond helping you win "Name That Tune," MAVIS opens up a world of possibilities. Turn up that hearing aid - 508-compliance on steroids. How about searching CCTV for dodgy schemes? The possibilities are mind boggling.
Yes, I too feel the shudder of George Orwell. That said, MAVIS opens up a world of new possibilities that take us one step closer to HAL - for better or worse…
Now, Microsoft isn’t the first company that springs to mind when we think of innovation. Perhaps the folks in Redmond should open up the doors to their labs more often? What we have here is a failure to communicate…
There’s a lot more than Outlook and Word bubbling in Bill’s test tubes.
Magic stuff this technology.
A comedian and a magician walk into a party in Las Vegas. Sound like the first line of a bad joke? Well it’s pretty much turning out that way across the Federal IT market. Since GSA slipped on the banana peel in Sin City, the reverberations of its fall are being felt everywhere. Last week’s new IG report on GSA travel didn’t make things better. Out-of-town conferences are grounded. AFITC cancelled. National Guard NGB JC4I shuttered.
On June 3, DoD froze all large conferences and travel. That means decimation for the LandWarNet gatherings. AFCEA West should eek through - a lot of local attendees. Dare I say it, is the luau at AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific in danger of drowning in the tsunami? Surely GSA Expo is extinct. And, with the election looming, the beat down on Feds ain’t letting up any time soon.
What does all this mean? Well, first off, the airlines and hotels will feel the sting - even at per-diem rates, that’s billions in revenue. Second, many of these out-of-town conferences aren't cancelled, they’re finished. That said, government and industry still need to talk - so it’s going to mean more small events that draw local audiences. It’s going to tax the marketing community – it’s time to get more creative. According to the GovMark Council, industry spends 30 percent of its marketing budget on shows. Splashy booths are out. Content is king. Serious, micro-targeted programs are in. Yes, watch out, that means still more conferences in D.C. Will webinars get a boost - certainly. But, I still don’t see senior decision makers eating their lunch in front of a computer screen when they can invite vendors into their office for in-person briefings any time. Attend the GovMark Council luncheon on July 12 to learn new marketing magic tricks for government IT.
Oh, and what does it mean for ELC? Now Williamsburg ain’t Vegas, but it is a nice resort. I’ve attended the conference for the last 20 years - right back to FGIPC. It's always been a great event. That said, most of the government attendees come from GSA. No Federal employee wants to be photographed with a pint glass or golf club in their hand. ELC will need to make some significant changes. I’m guessing it’s RIP for the traditional format. Seems big conference managers will need help from that magician if they're to pull rabbits out of their hats...
Networx - Smooth Operator?
What's the forecast for GSA Networx and Federal telco? Dare I say it -- cloudy, according to a recent MeriTalk study - Off the Hook - fielded at this year's Suss Federal Networks conference.
Industry and government aren't disputing the phone bill. Considering 2011 spending and revenue - 50 percent of government Networx customers increased spending vs. 44 percent of industry increased their contract revenue. However, wires are crossed on future calling plans. Eighty-six percent of Networx suppliers predict 2012 revenue will rise. Only 13 percent of government see their Networx spend increasing. Thirteen - unlucky for some. If industry plans to meet sales quota, contract holders better hope that 13 percent spends a lot more.
Friends & Family
But, it makes sense to place a call outside GSA's immediate area code to hear voices beyond the Networx Friends & Family plan - agencies that don't currently use Networx. Everybody agrees that the contract is easy to use, but 52 percent of Feds see Networx adoption on hold. A whopping 71 percent of respondents say their agency has not made any purchases on the contract.
In today's budget-constrained world, Feds are shouting the cost savings imperative. Sixty-four percent are much more focused on cost savings than last year. Thirty-one percent are more focused on cost savings than last year. Only five percent say the savings priority is the same year on year. Industry is picking up the receiver - 60 percent say they’re delivering more value for the same cost. But only one in three plan to reduce their prices.
IT Phone Home?
And, buyers and suppliers aren't on the same line when it comes to where to look for savings. Twenty-five percent of Feds voted for telework as the hottest cost cutter, followed by data center consolidation at 19 percent. Forty-three percent of industry voted for data center consolidation as the best penny pincher - only eight percent pinned their savings hopes on telework.
Can You Hear Me Now?
One message that came through loud and clear - mobility cometh. Feds and industry agreed that Uncle Sam will quickly embrace mixed use/BYOD. Thirty-nine percent of government and 56 percent of industry anticipate BYOD across government by 2014. Counterpoint, 34 percent of government and 24 percent of industry respondents believe that personal use of government-furnished phones is more likely.
Before you hang up, how relevant is Networx? Is Networx the Zack Morris phone? What's the future in a cloud UC world? Looking at savings, government needs to act differently, not just give lip service to austerity message. Then industry will get the message - and change its behavior and/or pricing. Recognize and reward innovation, please. Feds are adding telework on speed dial. Mobility matters. And cloud…well, it might just be your “smooth operator.” And before you ask, no, that’s not my ring back tone.
Fahrenheit or Centigrade?
When I first arrived stateside, I couldn’t tell the temperature in Fahrenheit. Don’t sweat - this cup isn’t more cloud metaphor. It’s focused on last week’s Senate subcommittee hearing that pitted Fed IT’s two weathermen pointer to pointer. OMB’s VanRoekel vs. GAO’s Powner.
First up, OMB. Leave your umbrella at home - sunshine, low humidity.
The “Egg McMuffin” of Data Centers
Data Center Consolidation’s all blue skies. Though OMB keeps changing the amount we’ll save by 2015 – started at $3 billion under Vivek, VanRoekel kicked it up to $5 billion, now he’s downgraded to $3 billion again - OMB says it’s the “Egg McMuffin” of beach days for FDCCI.
Apparently Uncle Sam’s shuttered 267 data centers to date - and plans to close 429 more this year. Couple questions - were we starting from the 1,100 or the 2,800 data centers? Oh, and what’s the definition of a data center? And, of course, the really big question - how close are we to the $3 billion in savings, I mean $5 billion in savings, sorry $3 billion in savings?
OMB talked about the CapEx/OpEx inflection front. Keep an eye out for a new MeriTalk study “The Color of Money” that provides insight on Feds’ progress on the shift. It’ll tip onto the street on June 25.
Cloudy with a Chance of FedRAMP
Next up, VanRoekel referenced cloud and FedRAMP - do once/use many cloud security program to help agencies accelerate to the cloud. No new details. According to a recent study MeriTalk fielded at the Cloud Computing Exchange meeting with Senators Brown and Carper, FedRAMP has some significant challenges - keep an eye out for the study in the coming weeks. A quote from a frustrated Federal CIO - “For all the talk of ‘Cloud First,’ I can’t find any IAAS providers that have been blessed by GSA. It’s like a bad joke.”
Billions for the Taxpayer
The big close from OMB - Feds have saved $4 billion with 300 TechStats. Not $3 billion or $5 billion, right down the middle. And, focused at the agency vs. program level, new PortfolioStats will kick it up a level - how many more billions? Curious to see how Americans take TechStat and PortfolioStat savings to the bank. Are we giving money back to the tax payer? Is this largess being reinvested in IT? Does every tax payer get their own data center - and if so, how many square feet is each data center?
Change in the Weather
Next up, GAO’s Powner gestures with his pointer across a very different weather map. It’s not a monsoon, but nobody’d plan a picnic listening to GAO’s forecast. Net it out, GAO says OMB has prematurely claimed victory on 10 items in the IT Reform Plan. Interesting nobody calls it the 25-Point Plan anymore - you heard it here first that there were too many points of light. Even the almighty got it down to 10 commandments...
So, is it raining or not? According to GAO, in December 2011, OMB’s 25-Point Plan - I mean IT Reform Plan - progress report said that it had completed “the 10 action items” in the plan - back to the commandments. Seven were complete and three partially complete. GAO thinks OMB has the math upside down - three complete, seven works in progress.
Anybody else find this disagreement puzzling in what is supposed to be a binary world?
But, here’s the magic math. OMB says that the 25-Point Plan “served its purpose by acting as a catalyst for a set of broader initiatives.” Wow - no funding to support change and no accountability - why ever do Americans question why we bother to go to the polls? So, if it feels like it’s raining, think catalyst and broader initiatives and you won’t get wet…
How do we get such different weather reports in the same time zone? Perhaps OMB and GAO are confused, as I was, about the difference between Fahrenheit and Centigrade?
Why Are You So Obsessed with Fed Data Centers?
Good question. Guess it’s the tangibility and intangibility of these IT power plants that intrigues me - now you see them, now you don’t. They’re critical, sad, and comic. If you’re interested in hearing the straight forecast on FDCCI, attend the MeriTalk Data Center Exchange Brainstorm on June 19.
150 Fed data center leads registered. Colonel Chris Miller, Army’s Data Center Lead. All government speakers in sessions on Energy, Chargeback, and RoI. If you’re looking to consolidate your Federal data center learning, attend the Data Center Exchange Brainstorm on June 19. We promise you won’t get wet inside the Newseum.
Yep – like every other middle-aged fella, I had to have an iPad. It’s cool. It’s slick. But I sported a mullet too...
At my “padiversary,” I’ve stopped lugging it to meetings. Couldn’t make intelligible notes. Keyboards for people that don’t need to work. Yes, you can get a keyboard built into a fancy case – but that’s just one more thing to hump around. Baffling battery – thing’s always flat when I need it. I end up making notes with another technology – the Biro. You can read the whitepaper here.
At the airport, I need three bins at security. One for shoes. One for laptop. One for the pad. So much for Steve Jobs’ simple. Yes, I still have to take my laptop – just in case I have to do more than Angry Birds.
And, the iPad infestation’s wreaking havoc on Feds' IT security profiles. CISOs will do the conga if they turn into the next Rubik’s Cube or George Foreman Grill.
Am I the only one that didn’t like Dances With Wolves? Am I just a fuddie duddie, or is the iPad just a big phone that doesn’t make calls? Great for the consumer, but does the iPad have a legitimate seat in the mainstream workplace? If you had to chose between a pad and a PC – who’s the winner?
Quick search on YouTube – seems I’m not alone. To be fair, I'm never without the iPhone.
Oh, and not to trash the tech train, but now Facebook’s public – and Zuckerberg’s a zillionaire – has business finally worked out that it’s jumped the shark?
P.S. Congrats to Adriane Burton and the GITEC board on a great conference this week.