We sat down with Rob Davies, Executive Vice President of Operations, ViON; Rick Kryger, Deputy CIO, Operations & Acting Director, U.S. Department of Labor; and Sandy Krawchuk, Group Vice President, North America Public Sector, Cloud Infrastructure, Oracle Corporation to discuss how to best manage modernization requirements across the public sector and in Federal government including data center optimization, migrating applications to the cloud, and other key considerations for agencies.
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve confronted as you’ve tried to balance the drive for modernization against the technology refresh/maintenance cycle?
Sandy Krawchuk: You have to triage the three situations that most IT organizations are in: essentially keeping the lights on; not getting into technical debt; but also thinking about what the next paradigm is going to be. It could be a major rewrite or a total re-platforming of an operation, or back to a new business process that’s going to radically change the IT underpinnings. It’s not for the faint of heart. At any given time, one of those three areas takes the back seat to the other two. What I see quite frequently is a real commitment by leaders to move forward on a major goal, and the whack-a-mole occurs sometimes in an unfortunate way, where the debt accumulates to the point where it becomes a critical need in a very short time frame. Sometimes that means technology gets thrown in the category of “old” and “why do we have it?” when in fact, there are some really strong strategies that can be deployed to keep that environment modernized.
Q: What do you see among government agencies as you look at procurement methods to refresh technology?
Rob Davies: Agencies are really open to different acquisition strategies to support modernizing faster. The objective would be to move away from leasing and bring the public cloud model to the Federal data center. The goal is to provide a public cloud-like experience on premise with technology that the agency gets to choose. We’ve spent a lot of time on that and watched a customer radically transform how they acquire technology. The speed at which they acquire has increased as has their flexibility to meet mission requirements. They’ve also eliminated over-buying, and moderated their buying pace.
Krawchuk: I think there’s a general consensus that procuring anything in the Federal government is hard, and IT is even harder still. It has to have a lifecycle, and current procurement strategies don’t allow for that.
There’s a real desire from our customers to abstract the hardware purchase in some manner. That’s the hard part that happens maybe one time, and the as-a-Service model, provides, a “container” so that the services for compute, storage, back-up, recovery are delivered in a very flexible model and the underlying infrastructure can be moved in and out. Then customers don’t have to worry about that on a day-to-day basis, and they can focus on other priorities like delivering the applications to the end users.
Q: What have you seen as the practical impact of acquiring technology on a subscription basis and how do you think that might work for enterprise IT?
Rick Kryger: When looking at as-a-Service procurement rather than purchasing by component, the labor and costs that go into managing the overall service are more efficiently procured as a single package instead of a series of pieces.
Davies: In the past, agencies were overbuying. They couldn’t forecast who would need what as they tried to consolidate operational capability in the name of efficiency. I think the public cloud has challenged everyone’s perception about what’s possible, and it’s really that sort of service innovation that came out of DoD and a few companies that got started in that early, like ViON, have turned it into an operational concept to help implement new strategies to the cloud, put the right workload on the right platform and leverage speed and agility.
Q: As we talk about critical systems we have to modernize. What about SPARC? It’s effectively like a mainframe and runs a lot of critical workloads in the government today. How do you modernize that capability?
Krawchuk: We still see the install base for SPARC. A lot of the systems and the applications that are running on SPARC have been doing so for quite some time, silently and correctly, and with good reliability, and as a result, they tend to take the personality of the phone line. If you have a landline in your house, you’re always going to get a dial tone. As a result, these systems are like the silent soldiers. They’re there all the time and sometimes don’t get the attention for how they can play into a modernized environment. People may ask “why do we still have them around?” I tell our customers SPARC is here to stay.
The operating system [Solaris] is certified by Oracle and will continue to be supported until 2034. The point is: there’s a pathway for chip design for improvements to the architecture for years to come. Customers who are facing a modernized environment with systems that are many generations old are staring at the dreaded letter from the manufacturer or the software provider saying you’re going to be out of support, and suddenly the emergency occurs. We’ve been working with customers to show how they can ramp up and take advantage of consolidation on much higher efficiency systems compared to what they may have bought years ago. The processing capability is there, as well as the extensibility within single racks to handle a crazy amount of workload.
Davies: SPARC is not dead, contrary to popular belief. In that balance between operations maintenance and dev ops, SPARC is a great example of accumulating that legacy debt, and if you get that into an as-a-Service model, you can modernize and consolidate. It’s an operational model that can keep that going for the next five to ten years, because of how stable it is.