The IT landscape is rapidly evolving and can often present new and unknown challenges to chief information officers (CIOs). André Mendes, CIO at the Department of Commerce (DoC), joined the General Services Administration’s (GSA) High-Performance Computing Summit today to offer advice for CIOs as they navigate the new landscape.

“The State of the Union is absolutely incredible. It continues to move fast at a dizzying asymptotic evolution. It’s absolutely incredible,” Mendes said. “I’ve been in the industry for 41 years, and I have only seen it accelerate. And I expect that will continue to be the pattern going forward.”

This rapid tech evolution is being fueled by unlimited, cheap central processing unit (CPU) storage and bandwidth, according to Mendes. The CIO explained that the impact of this is seen not only in the rapid advancement of AI, but also “across the entire set of industries and disciplines,” including the biological realm.

“The possibilities are almost endless and difficult to comprehend for mere mortals like ourselves, endlessly good or endlessly bad, and anything in between,” he predicted.

So, what is a CIO to do in the midst of this new technological evolution? Mendes said that CIOs must stay vigilant today, while also looking to the future.

“This rapid constant evolution is extremely, extremely demanding, right? We have to maintain today and build tomorrow,” he said. “Mission criticality and ultra-rapid evolution sometimes clash, and so we need to be very careful that we keep the blocks running. Things will only get faster, which means this is going to continue to be a challenge.”

Mendes went on to say that CIOs must implement proven evolutionary lessons, standardize and modularize everything, and create abstraction layers so that they can concentrate “on the faster positive mutations at the value layer.”

In terms of IT systems, he said CIOs should “consolidate, virtualize, co-locate, and cloud.”

Mendes explained that cloud computing is a “short-term evolution essential,” and CIOs must get rid of their commodity functions to focus on the application layer – which in turn will help them to deliver value to their agency or department.

“You must focus on your organization’s mission. None of these departments and agencies were created to run computers, to run networks, to run storage systems,” he said. “So, to the degree that you can eliminate from your environment those by going to the cloud and by outsourcing all of the commodity functions, you’re going to be able to dedicate much more of your resources to the application layer where the value is.”

Finally, he added that in-house systems are typically “anachronistic,” and advised moving to a state where mission-specific functions are the “main target” for resources. In doing so, he said everything else can be “diminished by virtue of you creating abstraction layers, and either outsourcing it, clouding it, or taking advantage of software as a service or application as a service or infrastructure as a service.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.