Jane Snowdon, Director and Chief Innovation Officer, IBM US federal. (File)
Recently, leaders from both the federal government and private sector came together to discuss open source initiatives and standards for cloud computing as part of the Public Sector Cloud Summithosted by the Cloud Standards Customer Council (CSCC). It’s a pivotal time for technology companies and the clients we serve in the federal government as cloud computing changes the technology landscape.
Even with tightening budgets, worldwide spending on information technology exceeded around $2.1 trillion in 2013, driven by doubling growth in mobile, cloud, Big Data and social technologies, according to IDC. By 2020, this figure is expected to more than double to $5 trillion. In the federal government, IDC says that federal cloud services spending alone will reach $1.7 billion in FY2014. The transformation from outdated, legacy systems to cloud-based platforms is not only inevitable, but needed now to keep pace with an increasingly interactive, on-demand world driven by a technology dependent, expanding global network.
Some might say, we’ve got enough technology, why such massive increases in spending? Well, the answer is pretty simple if you take a look at the convergence of some key trends. These trends will impact the way the companies – and eventually governments – deliver millions of systems, software and services to billions of users.
As part of IBM’s Global Technology Outlook, led by IBM’s Research labs, we see six major trends shaping the agenda for the next several years:
1. Mobile Devices: Individual enterprises and entire industries will migrate and connect their information technology infrastructures to support mobile computing. Mobile enables flexibility in services and expands the reach, which will bring communication and productivity to a whole new level.
2. Cloud Computing: Moving to a software-defined environment that is open, highly configurable and programmable will be essential for organizations to gain more agility and efficiency.
3. Multimedia: Multimedia will become a first-class data type, similar to numeric and text data today. Understanding the distinctions between images, videos and multimedia analytics will provide new business value.
4. Analytics: Interactive visual analytics will change the way users gain insights and value from data. This will be fundamental to the broad-based adoption of Big Data and analytics.
5. Big Data: The shift to context-centric information systems will play out over the next decade and will support personalized services, which will give companies a competitive advantage in the marketplace and governments more opportunities to be citizen-centric.
6. Cognitive Computing: Tomorrow's cognitive systems will use natural language processing and machine learning technologies, will learn and reason, communicate naturally with humans through voice commands and gestures, and generate their own novel insights. Cognitive systems will provide expert assistance to scientists, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals in a fraction of the time it now takes.
For the U.S. government to take full advantage of all these trends efficiently, a critical focus needs to be put on cloud computing built on open standards. In some respects, if systems that take advantage of these trends are going to be deployed in a scalable and economical way, open is the only way to go. The private sector is already taking the lead and the government is beginning to explore this option as well.
Governments face multiple challenges with limited budgets while at the same time significant demands for resources from the public. Cloud computing solutions built on open standards will allow governments to focus on delivering value to the public without the burden of proprietary IT infrastructure. Both governments and citizens benefit from open cloud technology because it allows for greater access to government data and services.
As governments continue to embrace clouds of different sorts with multiple vendors, the need for data and application portability becomes more important. That makes it even more important to have open standards in cloud computing because they can bring even greater opportunities: providing integration, breaking down barriers between clouds within government, and helping to drive workload productivity.
Open cloud is more than an IT tool; it’s a source of innovation and a disruptor of industry transformation. Open clouds can help government agencies provide broader access to citizens by jump starting a new program or re-imagining service needs. We are advancing to accommodate the ever-changing IT industry – it’s time for government agencies to jump on board with an open standards-based approach.