For the past decade, US federal government CIOs and IT managers have been working steadlily on a service-oriented approach to delivery of services across the agency. Lately, this effort has been extended to the cloud realm -- also is being embraced across agencies to better streamline the government's $80-billion annual IT budget.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ajay Budhraja, chief technology officer with the US Department of Justice, who has been active in federal-level SOA and cloud efforts. Budhraja was speaker at the latest gathering of MITRE, an association of federal IT managers interested in pursuing shared-service strategies.
The latest federal government directive -- the shared services initiative -- builds upon the work that federal CIOs have been doing with SOA, Budhraja says. "The SOA community of practice has been going on for several years, and the MITRE conference has been going on for several years."
Ultimately, whether it's called SOA, cloud, shared services, or something else, the goal is to be able to build and maintain services that can be used by any agency that needs them. "Across federal agencies, the key driver is reuse," Budhraja explains. "We want to make sure that we can leverage them and reuse any capabilities that we have across organizations -- through federation and service oriented architecture."
Services Budhraja sees being deployed and shared include identity management, authentication, authorization, business, application, and reporting services.
The government's shared service strategy that is now maturing could not have succeeded without an effective governance strategy, Boudhraja says. This has required a lot of work and forethought, as there is a natural tension between the fast agility of the cloud and the need for well-planned architecture. "If you look at the deployment models for services and for the cloud, there’s a lot of emphasis on agile, or quick deployment. How do we reconcile both of them? Where we can have the proper policies and procedures in place, as well as quickly deploy these services, some of them to the cloud?"
Without proper planning and governance any shared service or cloud effort "will result in a lot of silos and data inconsistency. It's very important to have standards and procedures in place,” Budhraja continues. He also recommends a robust change management apporach, along with effective monitoring of services.
Still government agencies are not missing out on this key advantage of shared services and cloud -- rapid adoption of new applications as they are needed. “I've seen applications set up in a few weeks as opposed to months," Budhraja says. That's one of the key drivers of cloud for us -- we can do it fast, we can demonstrate to customers very fast, through rapid and agile deployments. And also realize the benefits of the scalability of the cloud services that we have. It really leads to high velocity in terms of managing the services incrementally, if you want to make changes and so on. We require less time to provision services and storage, and do configurations.”
Another area Budhraja and fellow federal CIOs have been working on is the chargeback mechanism for shared services across agencies. Initially, he says, agencies sharing services and cycle times did not monitor who, what and how often their systems were accessed. The cloud mlodel is changing that, however. “Traditionally, a lot of services were set up without usage or the demand aspect associated with that,” he says. “People just set up a service, and it was just out there. Now, especially with the cloud, it's based on usage aspects or demand aspects. I think the cloud services are an excellent area where we have that usage-based aspect, where we can see what's the usage, and you can tweak that based on current and based on demand.”
Government has different motivations for deploying cloud as well, Broudhaha points out. “In the federal government, one of the key drivers is still cost savings,” he says. “As you know with the budget situation in the federal government, we want to make sure that we can have cost savings and cost avoidance. Cloud services facilitate that. For example, in cloud deployments, the provisioning times are not as much. In the traditional deployments, you’ve got to buy the hardware, you’ve got to buy the software, and then you’re stuck with that.”
Still, with SOA and cloud, government agencies are thinking in more of a business-like fashion toward technology adoption. Boudraha says he has seen a “shift from a pure technology services development to a business services development. In the past, we were worried about the power in the pipes, we were worried about the internals, how are we going actually develop this services? What are the underlying areas that were going to have ti do from a technology perspective? Now its moving up – now its really moving to a high level where we have business services that are being developed.”
In addition to the evolution of federal SOA initiatives, Budhraja made some predictions on the emerging role of cloud brokerages within government cloud formations. That portion of the my interview can be found at the Forbes site.
(Thumbnail photo: Joe McKendrick.)