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GCN : March and April 2016
The Congressional authors of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) intended for agencies to have more latitude to utilize cloud technology to save money and modernize agency applications. Richard McKinney, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Transportation, has received high praise from one of the authors of that legislation, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). Connolly believes McKinney “really gets” the convergence of policy and technology to spark innovation and cost savings in the federal government. McKinney sat down with federal government expert and journalist Francis Rose to talk about DoT’s cloud transition. Rose: What is the Transportation Department’s assess- ment of its current systems and transition to the cloud? McKinney: We’re in the middle of transitioning our entire mail and messaging platform to a shared, government-only cloud environment. We’ve got the messaging side of it operative, and we’re working on the planning for the launch of the mail store and the mail boxes, which will probably take place over the next couple months. Rose: What is your sense of what the next steps will be? McKinney: The storage side is easier than the compute side, so I think that’s where our next focus will be. We’ll also, at some point, begin to move into the compute side as well. I think all of us are looking at what [businesses] we can get out of. If we’re going to do it locally and on our own, we have all the accompanying infrastructure underneath it. If we can find good, reliable, secure shared service providers, it simplifies our lives. I told you we moved our e-mail to the cloud. Now my whole e-mail system automatically has redundancy. I don’t have to think about whether I have a mail store. I don’t have to build the platform it rides on. By moving to the cloud, I no longer have to worry about standing up all that infrastructure and providing all that underpinning. Rose: Do you still hear hesitations or objections among your colleagues about moving to the cloud? McKinney: What I sense is a real excitement about the possibilities. Everybody wants to be cautious because you want to be sure that you move into a service that’s going to be secure and reliable. We tend to think that we work hard to make sure the infrastructure we provide for ourselves is reliable and secure. If you’re going to pick that up and move it to the cloud, you want to feel equally as confident that what you are transitioning to the cloud is going to be well managed and secure. You also have to keep your options open. You don’t want to move something to the cloud and have it be a dead-end street. You want to be able to port that service to another provider down the road if somebody comes along with a better solution or a better shared service. What I feel is we’re all very much chomping at the bit to identify these reliable service providers and take advantage of them. Rose: Are some of the tools that you need to effectively make cloud transitions and as-a-service transitions included in the FITARA? McKinney: FITARA is an important piece of the puzzle. I’m trying to use FITARA to get total transparency through the department about how we spend our money. As I better understand that, I believe I’m going to find more opportunities to bundle up the needs of all the various operating administrations and move a particular set of needs to a shared service provider. Rose: Are there some best practices that the government has prepared for transitioning from legacy to modern apps and the cloud? McKinney: I’m sort of creating as I go along. That’s the honest answer. I think it is case-by-case because each app is unique. They have unique histories and were often built slowly over a period of time. We begin with understanding it, and the requirements it’s met. Rose: When you do a transition like your mail and messaging, how do you assess the success? McKinney: The day we transition over, if the users are saying, “I didn’t know anything happened,” that’ll be successful. But I also know transitioning to this new solution is going to bring new capa- bilities. What I’m looking for is the user saying, “These new tools are really great. They’re making our job easier and improving our ability to stay in contact with one another,” which is especially important in a department like the DoT that has people all over the United States. This interview continues at carahsoft.com/innovation/cloud ONE-ON-ONE WITH RICHARD MCKINNEY Executive Viewpoint Department of Transportation’s CIO talks about DoT’s move to the cloud. SPONSORED CONTENT TRANSITION 2016: NEXT-GEN CLOUD TOOLS S-28
January and February 2016