Cloud and future business models for the government

Hear FCB’s chat with PV.


You might have heard about the end-of-the-year series on Federal News Radio’s afternoon show, The Daily Debrief.

Venkatapathi Puvvada of Unisys


It’s called Stories of the Decade.

Hosts Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris have been talking with various experts from industry and government, asking them what they think changed the most during the past 10 years.

Venkatapathi Puvvada (also known as “PV”) is the vice president and managing partner at Unisys Federal. He talked with Chris and Amy about changes at the Industry Advisory Council, where he served as chairman awhile back.

Now, he talks with FCB about some of the biggest changes in how the government has used technology over the past decade, and where the government might be headed.

This, of course, involves cloud computing.

Fed Cloud Blog: There at Unisys, you’ve seen so much changes in how the government uses technology over the past decade. Of course, at the start, we were all worried about Y2K — my, we’ve come so far.

Venkatapathi Puvvada: Absolutely. I remember canceling a vacation in 1999 to watch over the system to make sure nothing blew up.

The systems had a lot more resilience than people thought.

The fixes that were applied really helped, but what that allowed the government to do was invest in upgrading the infrastructure, upgrading the systems and leverage more of the capabilities — COTS (commercial off the shelf) capabilities to run government business.

That led to a platform where the last decade has been the decade of the Internet. While [it] took shape in the 90’s . . . it has matured enough to be the mainstream mechanism by which the government conducted its business.

If you really think about why that is, there were three things that lent itself to the platform for business. One is instant access to information from the government or businesses that are trying to conduct e-commerce. But, it came with a great business model, [which is] essentially information for free, everybody can get to it immediately, and it allowed innovators to thrive.

If you think about, 10 years ago, the Googles and the Amazons and Ebays weren’t mainstream companies in technology, per se.

The reason why that is — the Internet is a truly operable platform. Who would have thought that a patchy Web server would be the number one Web server that powers the Internet?

So, if you look at it from a government perspective, I think launch of e-gov initiatives by Mark Forman, Internet essentially became the de facto platform for the government to conduct business.

We’re using supply chain management to security management to — essentially everything else that we do is based on Internet technologies.

FCB: There are all sorts of things that come out of that as we look forward, like cloud computing. Is this something that you see continuing in the future? Or, 10 years from now, are we going to be talking about cloud the way we were talking about Y2K?

PV: I think we’re going to be talking about cloud computing 10 years from now.

What cloud computing does is provide the same benefits that the Internet provided as a platform — instant access to information, instant access to computing power and storage power — that is not available today.

The other thing is the business model. I think the current economic conditions force people into being very efficient about the money that they spend, so cloud computing changes the financial dynamic from capital expenditure to “spend on what you need” — and, perhaps what is going to determine how successful cloud computing as a platform is going to be [concerns] the interoperability.

Folks are already concerned about vendor lock-in — what happens if I buy this cloud computing from this vendor? There’s some work that needs to be done to establish an interoperable platform, but it has a lot of promise.

Primarily, it helps people get things done faster, cheaper with a new business model.

I think, also in this age of consumerization and social networking, if you think about in the 1990’s, computing was around decentralization — client-server computing allowed from from centralized data centers controlling everything.

People were able to do a lot of stuff locally in the office with LANs. If you look at the last decade, [there has been] leveraging a lot of Internet in an enterprise business model. How do we not run into stove pipes? How do we use the Internet as a collecting mechanism?

I think what you’re going to see more of is consumerization and social networking.

There are a lot of stories out there in the press that talk about now how there is a huge disconnect between what is available for people at home and versus what companies and the government are providing.

FCB: That’s really unlike a decade ago. Now, oftentimes you have better stuff at home than you do at work.

PV: Absolutely. If you go back 10 years ago, desktop was a standard platform. Now we’re talking about laptops and netbooks.

Perhaps you’re looking at smartphones and mobile devices.

Perhaps connecting TV’s to Web devices would be your de facto platform 10 years from now.

So, businesses and the government have to figure out — how do we take advantage of these tech-savvy consumers in the workplace?

You’re talking yourself into a platform that is more miniaturized — perhaps [with] nanotechnologies, which would . . . provide new capabilities. Maybe mobile devices could be new identity verifiers. You can build in . . . all kinds of biometric devices. If

We can handle the privacy issues, perhaps [there could be] an auto-ID, location-based construct to help do a lot more things in the future.

[Those are] just some of the possibilities looking ahead.

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