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GCN : May 2015
[BrieFing] GCN MAY 2015 • GCN.COM 7 OBLONGINDUSTRIES users can get together to manipulate many data sources, such as PDFs, JPEGs, reports, analytics and websites. “It will accept any data, any content from any application, and there are no integration services that are required to do that,” Friedel said. Users don’t even have to be in the same room to collaborate. They can connect remotely and from one Mezzanine-enabled room to another. The third common use, which is especially popular with the military, is on-demand, real-time situational awareness. For example, Mezzanine can be helpful in crisis or emergency management, when many agencies need to work together efficiently. Mezzanine rooms start at $150,000 and can cost as much as $250,000, depending on what’s needed. A room typically consists of three high-defini- tion dynamic screens and three other screens called corkboards that hold static images for future use. Informa- tion flows into the appliance via a variety of connected devices, and the appliance presents the data on the dynamic displays and corkboards. As changes to the data occur, all users see the updates at the same time. What’s more, Friedel said, if people in one Mezzanine room have an applica- tion that the users in another lack, the second group can use the wand to essentially reach through and access that application. “It’s almost like a video game,” he said. “You point and click on the wand, and there are a couple basic functions that you can perform.... You can add content, you can stretch content, you can zoom in, you can cut and paste that content.” Mezzanine provides a high return on investment, Friedel said. For instance, it requires no middleware, whereas connecting two or more applications or environments — such as data ware- houses, enterprise resource planning systems or business intelligence sys- tems — typically requires a significant amount of middleware. It also eliminates the need for em- ployees to travel for meetings, cutting costs and increasing productivity. Looking ahead, Oblong officials want to enable users to walk into a Mezza- nine room, present an ID card such as a Common Access Card and automati- cally access the information they need. The company also plans to offer a modular design to make Mezzanine more scalable. • — Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia. States are struggling to recruit and retain IT talent, and the problem is already affecting their IT plans and strategies, according to a new report from the National Association of State CIOs. Filling the skill gap left by retiring baby boomers is one of the biggest challenges. States are doing their best to direct new talent toward vacant positions, but 92 percent said public- sector pay makes it challenging to recruit the talent they need, and posi- tions remain vacant for months. Salary is also the biggest issue when it comes to the most pressing skill set state CIOs want in new recruits: cybersecurity. Application develop- ment, programming and support, and architecture also ranked high on the list of IT talent that states are having a hard time hiring. As a result, many states are look- ing for other means to attract skilled IT workers. Noting that 86 million millennials will be in the workforce by 2020, the report says many states are trying to cater to that group’s priori- ties, including flexible work hours, a collaborative work environment and work/life integration. The report makes a number of related recommendations to CIOs in the “Call to Action” section by urging IT shops to make work environments stimulating and minimize bureaucracy. The report also calls on CIOs to docu- ment what is working and what isn’t in terms of hiring and retaining employ- ees and to incorporate those lessons into a formal recruitment strategy. In the short term, outsourcing seems to be the solution of choice for many states. “Expand outsourcing,” “out- source business applications through a SaaS model,” and “expand existing IT shared services model” were the most popular responses to how states will deal with IT shortages in the next three years. Forty-nine states and territories took part in the survey. • — Suzette Lohmeyer is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va. Salary shortfalls and scary skill gaps BY SUZETTE LOHMEYER 0515gcn_006-012.indd 7 4/30/15 10:58 AM