Saturday, August 24, 2013

NBC4 Puts On A Great GovCloud Show !!

NBC 4 in Washington, DC highlighted government cloud computing today as part of their GovInnovate show. Below is just a taste of the informative public service they provided.  Go to the NBC Washington video site for much more!

Casey Coleman: How the Cloud is Becoming Part of IT Spending

Keith Trippie: What cloud computing does for the government, in practical terms.

Stephen Warren: The cloud and our veterans

NASA: How Has the Cloud Helped Space Programs?

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

OMB's Evidence Memo: A Call for Cloud Services Brokerage

by Ray Holloman and Kevin Jackson
In a late July memo the Office of Management and Budget requested cloud services brokerage.
Well, not in so many words.
Rather, OMB requested increased use of evidence in 2015 budget proposals and in evaluation of existing programs to, in the words of agency leadership, “continually improve program performance by applying existing evidence about what works generating new knowledge and using experimentation and innovation to test new approaches to program delivery.”
The memo is part of the administration's ongoing evidenced-based initiative to better use analytics to evaluate outcomes of dollars spent.
All of which makes sense. With the ebb tide of sequestration causing federal IT budgets to continue to recede, Uncle Sam’s wallet is more cobwebs than cash. This means every dollar spent must be carefully indexed for performance.
In federal IT, it’s a call for CSB, not simply for the cost savings of cloud computing, but for the independent tracking of metrics and flexibility a multi-vendor broker solution provides.
Kevin L. Jackson
“Cloud services brokerage is an evidence-based performance model,” NJVC Vice President and General Manager, Cloud Services, Kevin L. Jackson said. “Pricing is transparent. Performance is transparent. The cloud broker’s only incentive is to provide the best performance and value to the customer.”
CSB solutions like NJVC’s Cloudcuity platform, can help bring cost transparency and detailed evidence of performance to the IT enterprise. With automated dashboards and monitoring, CSB solutions can replace some of the human capital required to monitor single-vendor solutions, while expertise in deploying and managing mulit-vendor solutions can help reduce the burden of integrating what frustrated customers often refer to as phonebooks of APIs.
In an area with highly dynamic pricing and an emering universe of options, CSB brings sunshine to the economics of the cloud.
“For the same reasons brokerage has revolutionized travel, financial services and other industries, the same impact will be realized in cloud computing,” Jackson said. “It’s more choice, more transparency and more evidence of success or failure.”
Federal belt-tightening makes CSB a tool with which agencies can do more with less in the lean times, and more with more in times of expanded budgets.
CSB also supports something that federal IT isn’t typically afforded—flexibility. Underperformance of a vendor or solution doesn’t require the end of a contract’s option year or other termination actions. Agencies and programs can simply switch. New ideas or services can be tested an inexpensive rate, systems virtualized with dummy data to mitigate security risks and, if the outcomes are beneficial, solutions deployed more nimbly. 
Cloud computing has already generated savings for federal IT. A 2012 industry survey found a savings of $5.5 billion annually across the federal IT budget due to cloud adoption.
CSB marks the next level of cost savings, preventing much of the financial leakage associated with cloud deployment. As the federal government explores CSB as a delivery model, the early evidence of its success is already here.
At the state level, four agencies in Texas are already using CSB services, provided through the same CSB portal that powers the NJVC Cloudcuity portfolio. The agencies estimate a 30-45 percent infrastructure cost savings compared to internal data center costs and reported improved ability to onboard cloud options by a factor of five., a site launched by the Texas Secretary of State to serve as a one-stop resource fo the needs of Texas voters, was stood up in just two weeks.
Internationally, Cloudcuity provided CSB to a disaster relief response demonstration, providing a key technology to stand up an international disaster response infrastructure (comprising four clouds, seven applications and two geospatial data stores) in less than a year with no capital expenditure. The lessons learned from this reenactment may become the baseline for future disaster response, drastically reducing cost and decreasing time to deploy critical resources. 
As more and more cloud solutions come online, CSB provides a streamlined acquisition model for self provisioning, or, working in concert with cloud consultants like Jackson to determine the best route. A CSB provides clear proof of normalized cloud performance, determined through validated algorithms—not simply the one-page marketing slick numbers a single vendor promotes. A full-service CSB can help reduce some of the leakage of savings associated with cloud computing by helping end users deal with integrating numerous APIs, dynamic pricing, identifying pricing arbitrage and understanding likely future cost fluctuations.
Moreover, competition can remain constant with the help of a CSB, as performance and cost are constantly monitored and compared against differing solutions. A CSB can can then compete pricing among multiple providers, allowing  Federal or commercial clients to remain agile in a dynamic marketplace.
“Vendors focus on creating the best product, which is great. Cloud services brokers, however, focus on creating the best strategy for an individual customer,” Jackson said. “The two objectives may not be the same. No one would argue that Maserati makes an inferior car to an 18-wheeler, but if you need a transport fleet, merely being the best automobile doesn’t make it the best choice.”
And unlike a single-vendor solution, CSB provides complete transparency in results, both in spend and performance, and next-step course corrections without the need for expensive internal staff.
For federal IT, which needs to turn every nickel into a dollar, CSB can be a powerful tool to maximize budget spend. 
The evidence will be right in front of you.
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cloud Services Brokerage Lessons From Alex Rodriguez, Baseball's Trade Deadline

( A guest post from Ray Holloman, NJVC Corporate Communications)

Two stories sat atop baseball's marquee in the final days of July.
The first was the non-waiver trade deadline, baseball’s annual pros-for-prospects surge staffing. The second was the pending punishment of Alex Rodriguez, the former sweet-swinging shortstop turned sullen slugger turned cautionary tale and financial wild pitch of the New York Yankees.
Tucked in that double play of headlines was an impromptu lesson about the value of cloud services brokers (CSBs).
In a general sense, baseball's trade deadline is a valuable part of its own asset lifecycle.
For non-contending teams, the deadline historically is the time to exchange expensive, often past-its-prime talent (say, baseball’s legacy hardware) for cheaper, younger players. For teams in the penant race, the deadline offers an opportunity to add talent on a short-term basis to meet important objectives, say adding additional on-demand SaaS options like Salesforce to meet immediate campaign goals.
If executed properly, either approach can benefit your organization.
Ask an Astros fan about acquiring future franchise cornerstone Jeff Bagwell from the Red Sox for reliever Larry Andersen in 1990 as an August waiver wire trade and watch them beam ear to ear, at least until they get knocked silly by a Boston fan with a fungo. On the flip side, ask any Yankees fan about the value of David Cone, a 1995 acquisition, to the team’s four World Series wins in five years from 1996 – 2000, at the cost of prospects who never became so much as household names in their own households.
While Yankees GM Brian Cashman may not be the first person to visit with your cloud strategy functional requirement documents, when it comes to the trade deadline, effective baseball general managers share a playbook and set of guidelines with effective cloud services brokers.
Understand the Needs of Your Team
Effective CSBs and effective GMs intimately understand the needs of the team and the specific circumstances of the marketplace. In a blue-sky environment, every team in baseball would benefit from the addition of a star pitcher like Jake Peavy. Likewise, were money and technology no obstacle, nearly every company would find some benefit in using public cloud services.  
Whether or not either option is the best course for your team or company requires an understanding in end goal and, more importantly, current position against that goal. Reduced overheard/increased effieciency is the top-level goal of every IT department, just as every baseball’s team goal is to win the World Series. An effective GM or CSB will understand the position of your company and react accordingly. Just because companies have the same goal doesn’t mean they have a one-size-fits-all approach to the cloud, as every baseball team shouldn't make trades with the goal of winning the World Series at season's end.
For example, in 2002, the then Montreal Expos (kids, consult your history books) overestimated its success potential and traded future All Stars Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore for Bartolo Colon, only to both badly miss the playoffs by 12.5 games and lose Colon as a free agent at the end of the year. The trade (in fairness, completed under the cloud of possible contraction) set the Expos on the course to relocation to Washington, DC and effectively took baseball out of the French vocabulary.
Large cloud strategies without a proper understanding of time, place and expertise can be just as crippling, burdening a company with lengthy contracts and underperforming software.
The value of a CSB is the same as an effective general manager. Both the GM and CSB find the best available value and plot the best strategy with the specific goals of your company in mind, be it downsizing, upsizing or changing course altogether. There are no one-size-fits-all strategies, nor, likely, any one vendor to best meet all needs.
Kevin L. Jackson
Understand the Marketplace
In baseball, there are no sticker prices. Player acquisition is a negotiation between one buyer and one seller, so price discovery is an inexact science. From year to year, the value of a type of player changes as a simple function of supply and demand. Some deadlines are overloaded with starting pitchers, some don’t have a single hurler that could make a dent against the Bad News Bears or, worse, the Houston Astros.
Cloud strategy isn't much different.
Due to dynamic pricing relative to any number of factors between vendor and end user, maximizing the value of your IT investment in cloud is a difficult course to plot without extensive familiarity with the marketplace.
Further, with an increasing number of cloud solutions, ranging from the ordinary, like storage or email, to the more exotic, like disaster response, an effective CSB, like an effective general manager, needs to make certain the return on investment is sufficiently high in an era of dwindling IT dollars. Even if your primary need is upgrading desktop applications or, say, acquiring a second baseman, if the cost exceeds your budget, an effective GM or CSB will offer the best course of when to commit and when to wait or explore other options.
Full-service CSB, which provides transparency into pricing through service acquisition portals, as well as expert consultative service, helps provide a full view. At NJVC, Vice President and General Manager, Cloud Services, Kevin Jackson, leads the company's cloud efforts, including both strategy assessment and the use of the innovative Gravitant CloudMatrix platform. Jackson sees the evolution to a broker model as organic due to the level of knowledge required to understand the marketplace. 
“The range of cloud solutions in the marketplace today exceeds the ability of many corporate IT staff to keep abreast, just in the way the number of financial investment instruments available often exceed the ability of a personal investor to track,” Jackson says. “Even successful financial investors don’t work by themselves. Cloud is simply the next industry that will greatly benefit from brokerage models.”
Whether your cloud strategy is to use an internal cloud strategy broker composed of your own team of experts or an external team, understanding the marketplace is just as important as understanding needs.
Always Look Beyond the Back of the Card
Baseball is a game so finely audited you'd think it was sponsored by the IRS. Every pitch is carefully indexed; every swing recorded. The results of everything from defensive positioning to pitch type to seemingly what flavor bubble gum the left fielder prefers are cataloged and then analyzed like the human genome.
But, with apologies to ex-NFL Coach Bill Parcels’ brutally earnest assessment that you are what your record says you are, in baseball and cloud computing you are not necessarily what your numbers say you are. 
Effective general managers, like CSBs, know how to look beyond the publicly available statistics and determine organizational fit and future benefit.
Any armchair GM could propose a trade for a player hitting .300 in AA, but an effective general manager looks for the story behind the numbers. Is the player simply getting lucky on balls in play? Is he performing well against other top prospects or simply crushing pitchers on the way out of baseball? Is he age appropriate for the level?
Similarly, a CSB can look beyond the promised statistics of a cloud solution and understand how advertised performance baselines measure up in a real-world environment, and how the solution will benefit your entire IT enterprise. Any effective CSB understands there's more to cloud strategy than just vendor promises.
Work Effectively, but Behind the Scenes
General managers, like CSBs, work as architects. The on-field management is handled by the team's manager, and most decisions are approved by an owner or team president. Similarly, a CSB helps provide leadership and strategy; a  company’s day-to-day management is handled by its own IT department. 
“The goal of a cloud services broker is to supplement your expertise, not take your IT sovereignty,” Jackson says. “There may be some reluctance with cloud because its solutions often take IT off-premises, but it’s not a solution about lack of control, it’s a solution of efficiency.”
Cloud services brokerage holds many of the benefits of travel brokerage services, like Travelocity or Kayak. CSBs won’t tell you where your vacation spot should be, they’ll simply ensure you get to destination as efficiently as possible.
Full IT sovereignty belongs to the company and the IT manager.
Avoiding A-Rod and Vendor Lock in
On the flip side of the trade deadline was Rodriguez. 

The once-and-future clean home run champion, Rodriguez now faces suspension through the end of 2014 for his part in a performance-enhancing drugs scandal, is a declining talent and at 38, locked in to a 10-year, $275 million contract through 2017. The heft of Rodriguez’s contract makes even to the money-printing Yankees, baseball’s financial equivalent of a merger between Richie Rich and Daddy Warbucks, cringe.
In baseball's world of guaranteed contracts, player agreements are as unbreakable as a .400 batting average, an aluminum bat or a Royals' losing skid.
In the wrong circumstances, IT can be just as painful.
Paying for current performance without anticipating future needs can be a serious problem for any company. Like aging third basemen, IT solutions that provide best-in-class service today may not in five years. Technologies evolve, and often the most difficult part of corporate IT can be managing with creaky legacy software. Granted, IT tends to be more predictable than people (except printers, of course), but an effective CSB can help your IT strategy avoid lengthy vendor lock in and lack of agility .
Matched with the ability to look beyond the back-of-the-card stats and a real-time understanding of a dynamically priced market, an effective CSB, like an effective general manager, can maximize your IT budget and achieve your primary goal—increasing efficiency while reducing cost.
As baseball’s trade deadline and Rodriguez’s purgatory tells us, it isn’t simply understanding that it’s time for a change in strategy, it’s identifying the right team to execute it.
In these first days of August, when it comes to your cloud strategy, it’s probably time to make a trade.

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