• The U.S. government endeavors to deliver capabilities in a more responsive, agile manner, says Wes Caldwell, chief technology officer, Polaris Alpha.
     The U.S. government endeavors to deliver capabilities in a more responsive, agile manner, says Wes Caldwell, chief technology officer, Polaris Alpha.

Government Embracing New Era Technologies

The Cyber Edge
August 23, 2017
By Wes Caldwell

Solutions aim at efficiency and ubiquity of application development and delivery.

Many U.S. government sectors, including defense, intelligence, public safety, cybersecurity and space, have seen a recent shift toward embracing new technologies and methodologies for delivering capabilities in a more responsive, agile manner.

The ecosystem of technologies that is driving this innovation is diverse to say the least. The foundation of this ecosystem is the underlying IT infrastructure. The evolution of hyperconverged infrastructure is maximizing the density of computing power, random-access memory and storage in these modern data centers, making it easier and more cost effective for providers to leverage and deploy applications and solutions.

Layered on top of all that infrastructure, we are seeing the emergence of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (Paas) and software as a service (SaaS) environments available in public, private and hybrid deployment models. Cloud technology has been around for many years now but the rate at which the government is adopting and promoting the use of it is increasing at a rapid pace. One metric of this increase is that of the cloud marketplaces. These one-stop shops allow solution providers to provide out-of-the-box applications for easy purchase and consumption by end-user government customers. These marketplaces exist on public cloud infrastructure, such as Amazon’s GovCloud, and also on private PaaS platforms, including Pivotal Cloud Foundry and RedHat Openshift. This marketplace model has opened up the ease of discoverability by government consumers and the ubiquity in how solution providers deliver applications to them.

Because of the increased adoption and appetite for consuming applications in this new, so-called cloud native model, the need for quicker release cycles and rapid adaptation in the application development lifecycle has become increasingly important. Even though the barrier to deploy to government networks has its challenges, government customers are very open to leveraging new agile methodologies to delivering solutions. Modern DevOps, or development operations, tools and techniques are welcome additions to the toolkit for application development teams. The quicker iterations and ability to get direct feedback sooner on product enhancements allow teams to be more efficient and focused on building the right capabilities for customers. The technologies used to achieve this are primarily open source at their core, with enterprise offerings for more advanced features. Modern IT automation software such as Ansible, Chef, Puppet and others have replaced the often repetitive nature of IT maintenance tasks in deploying consistent, secure environments in compressed timeframes. These tools can literally save hundreds of hours in supporting quicker application development cycles, especially in cloud environments with many complex, distributed components being deployed and updated on a continuing basis.

The building blocks that compose an application are changing as well. Modern application architectures are composed of well encapsulated modules, from web application components to microservices supporting highly scalable deployments. The governments’ adoption of cloud infrastructure and supporting technologies bolsters the ability for solution providers to build their applications leveraging these new, modern techniques. Open source also is making significant headway into these solutions, allowing development teams to focus on the value-add capabilities for their customer’s mission needs, rather than building and supporting non-differentiated pieces of their solution. Many government agencies are actively hosting and contributing to open source projects—further evidence of their commitment to the open source community and process. 

In the area of big data and analytics, government customers are actually driving the evolution, due to the complex nature and sheer volume of the information needing to be analyzed on a daily basis by their analysts. The velocity, variety and volume of the data sets used by the government are only growing, fueling the innovation within the Defense Department and the intelligence community to develop cutting-edge, highly scalable systems to handle the data deluge. 

This new era in information technology innovation within the U.S. government is definitely here to stay. Agencies need to embrace and help drive this evolution of modern application development. Government solution providers who are positioned to transform and retool their processes, procedures and technologies will succeed in this new competitive landscape of agile IT.

Wes Caldwell, chief technology officer, Polaris Alpha, is responsible for directing the company’s overall technology and IP strategy and development for future growth, ensuring unity of technical vision and a continued competitive advantage. He has more than 20 years of experience in technology leadership, research and development and software engineering in both public and private sectors.

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