Federal government should lead if it wants standards

February 23, 2010

Today, our final segment with SpringCM on cloud.

Fed Cloud Blog talked with Roger Bottum, vice president of marketing, and Steve Maier, vice president and general manager of the government solutions division at the company.

We asked the two guests to wrap up and give us some final thoughts about cloud — and where the government needs to go from here.

Roger Bottum:

The general value proposition of cloud is pretty clear. What you can see are different agencies and organizations getting their heads around — how do we think about what kinds of applications make sense for us first to do — and then what are some of the specifics in how we might approach those to meet our requirements? There’s definitely sort of a strategy component going on that you can see quite visibly in some of the projects that are underway already.

Steve Maier:

I think there’s one other thing [which] is, we mentioned the idea that Vince Cerf is pushing for global standards. I guess the one thing I’d want to point out is, the government itself needs to play a lead role in driving those standards.

One, if the government is driving those standards, a lot of times the commercial world will come around to that. [This is] because, as the government drives the business, and they start pushing towards various standards — the one that I dealt with most and was directly involved in was FIPS 127 back in the 1980’s and 90’s.

It drove a standard model for database software vendors to build their products to, so you had true compatibility across products. It didn’t preclude vendors from offering extensions or proprietary features that allowed them to differentiate themselves, but it did, over time, normalize the database market so that everybody had adhere to a core set of features and functions.

In the long run, that’s actually accelerated the use of that technology around the world. As you start looking at the whole world of cloud, their role, I think, it’s key here, as well.

I don’t think any one industry or any one vendor is going to be able to lead that effort on their own.

They can get together a group of people and try, but you see things like the wireless end standards that are in draft for years and years and years and can’t come to any conclusion, because there’s no single entity or single body behind driving it to a single conclusion where the constituent parties can come to an agreement.

I think that’s where the government should be focusing energy going forward.

FCB asked — does this mean FISMA needs to be rewritten? What exactly needs to happen?

Steve Maier:

I wouldn’t say FISMA reform. I think bringing more clarity to what’s required in the cloud [is what is needed].

I don’t think any individual CIO in the government could tell you what was actually required — [in] their organization, from a FISMA compliance perspective — when it applied to cloud computing.

I think that’s something that NIST has been given the charter to do — helping the government first, obviously, and then constituent standard organizations in understanding what those best practices are.

I don’t know that there’s any reform needed, other than what you would expect in terms of what is happening in this market, which is an accelerating dynamic that the government could help move faster if there were more people focused on it.

The government buys a lot of its IT services from large government contractors.

One of the things that we have seen is those contractors, with the exception of those that operate in a classified environment, are — and have been now for the past two years that I’ve been involved in SpringCM — adopting cloud technologies internally so that they can improve the efficiency of their businesses.

It is going to become a natural for them to start taking that to market when the government is ready to start adopting these technologies, as well.

Most, if not all of them, already have internal production experience with cloud technologies.

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Should there be worldwide standards for cloud? SpringCM weighs in

February 22, 2010

We bring you more this week about SpringCM.

Fed Cloud Blog talked with Roger Bottum, vice president of marketing, and Steve Maier, vice president and general manager of the government solutions division at the company.

We asked whether or not there should be procurement and acquisition reform, or whether it is just a matter of a change in mindset.

Steve Maier:

I don’t think there’s any change in the laws that need to be made. I just think they need to sit down and spend some time getting their heads around how to do this.

It’s complicated by the industry.

The industry is not clear on their definition of cloud. There are different issues depending on what you’re trying to do . . . and organizations that sell packaged software are positioning themselves as a cloud solution. So, the industry itself is jumping on this in a way that — maybe they’re not being as straightforward and honest about what cloud is and what the government is actually getting.

The other side of it is the security requirements that the government imposes are not clear back to industry.

So, it’s not a change in the legal, process side of procurement. It’s a change in mindset. It’s shifting from buying packaged software, like buying an asset, to buying services, like telco.

It’s being clearer about what the business needs are in finding the right and best packaged solution — or services, if it’s cloud services they’re looking for — that fits their need.

FCB asked, should there be worldwide standards for cloud?

Steve Maier:

To a certain degree, yes. This is uniquely my opinion.

The government, for years, has been a key driver in service oriented architecture.

I actually believe that the Internet is basically the ultimate service oriented architecture. The reason is, is that all the services available out on the Internet can be wired together to provide a whole solution for our organization, which is really what the government’s been trying to do internally with all of their internally purchased systems, software, etc.

When you look at it from that perspective, yes, there is a need for broader standards and, whether you look at them nationally or globally, they do need to apply.

The challenge here is, the industry is nowhere near mature enough to be able to go jump on that and try and solve that problem.

Roger Bottum:

The challenge has been that things like defining service levels, availability standards, security standards.

The dialogue I’m familiar with has to do with . . . less the semantic of — what does cloud mean — and more a set of criteria by which customers of cloud applications and providers of clouds can speak in a common vernacular about the capabilities and possibly a hierarchy or a set of approaches that means something to both sides.

Right now, you have organizations, like ourselves and some of the other cloud players — Salesforce and others — where they’ve taken approaches on their own to communicate to customers things like service levels.

Those approaches are based on our internal best practices and us serving our customers. There isn’t a single, common standard for those kinds of things.

I think, whether it’s government or business, that there definitely will be an evolution of some sets of standards to help people better understand what it is and the basic capabilities of the kinds of cloud applications or cloud services that they’re buying.

I think also . . . if you look at the analogue in the corporate world, up until very recently — and still today — but the early consumer of cloud services in the corporate world were actually line of business people, not IT.

It’s really been in the last 12 to 18 months that CIO’s have really taken an ownership of and included a portfolio view of all manner of cloud services throughout their core IT strategy.

What that means, in part, is that the business buyers have a different set of expectations about what it’s like to acquire these services that is different than the traditional IT approach to buying hardware and software.


SpringCM, enterprise content management & the cloud

February 17, 2010

Today, Fed Cloud Blog brings you the first of a three part series with SpringCM, a company that specalizes in document management and workflow by providing SaaS enterprise content management.

FCB talked with Roger Bottum, vice president of marketing for SpringCM, and Steve Maier, vice president and general manager of the government solutions division at the company.

Bottum began by explaining that his company delivers what they call “high impact cloud solutions for documents in motion”.

We are a cloud solution for enterprise content management applications.

Our customers are typically implementing applications that involve content and document management applications, like case management, claims processing, bids and proposals — and some applications like correspondence management in the government, freedom of information act requests, those kinds of things.

Typically, [our customers] use what we do to help streamline inefficient document processes. . . . It’s really all about creating efficiency, driving down costs, increasing productivity and, in particular, what the cloud solution does is allow us to deliver, in days, what otherwise might take months or years to do at a fraction of the cost of traditional, on premise solutions.

Maier said what he finds interesting is that the federal government has really jumped on the bandwagon in terms of cloud over the past year or so.

With Vivek Kundra’s launch at FOSE last year and the introduction of the cloud storefront Apps.gov — all of those things are moving in the right direction, in my mind, for the government to do more in adopting cloud.

They do have a lot of work to do and we’re working to try to line up our product offering with what the government needs going forward.

I’ve been dealing with the government for 30 years. . . . The government is interesting because, given the size of their procurements and the things that they do, they’re a little hamstrung by the procurement process.

I don’t think there’s a shortfall in desire, but the procurement process is very much tuned to the status quo.

So, they have a hard time being nimble on the procurement side being able to switch gears and move to something like cloud.

For example, they’re very good at buying hard software packages and negotiating very large software purchases that they’re going to deploy internally.

Doing something similar with SaaS, which is not necessarily an asset purchase anymore, but is now a subscription service, requires that they reprogram their procurement process so it works more like FTS2000 than it does GSA Schedule 70.

That’s going to take them some time, because all of the things that they buy around telecomunication service has, bundled in it, all of those service level agreements [and] everything else.

So, I think that’s going to be their challenge over the next 12 to 24 months in trying to meet the government’s objectives in steering the IT organizations towards cloud.

Come back next week for more with SpringCM! Also, check back Friday when we bring you a cloud news roundup!