Federal Standards Body Focuses On Big Data, Cloud

National Institute of Standards and Technology's new IT Lab Director Chuck Romine says agency is focusing on big data, cloud computing, mobility, and cybersecurity in the coming year.
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The National Institute of Standards and Technology's IT Laboratory, which works on IT standards and metrics as well as federal cybersecurity programs, will be placing a new focus on big data and mobility technologies this year and will continue its work on cybersecurity and cloud computing, according to IT Lab Director Chuck Romine.

Romine, who took over for retiring IT Lab director Cita Furlani last fall, told InformationWeek that NIST will be increasing its work on standards, interoperability, reliability, and usability of big data technologies. Government and the private sector continue to amass huge data sets to help facilitate everything from more targeted marketing to improved government oversight.

"NIST can have a lot of impact on the big data question," Romine said, noting that the agency has been involved for years in analysis of how the federal government and private sector can better harness the power of large quantities of data. In 2009, for example, NIST helped publish a report called "Harnessing the Power of Digital Data."

The "inexorable push to mobility," as Romine called it, is another one of NIST's new priorities, he said. That work includes, among other things, developing new standards for wireless network technologies.

[ What else should the government be working on? Read 10 Government Ideas To Spur Innovation. ]

The other new project that Romine is working on is a strategic planning process in which he plans to engage other agencies and the private sector to help decide which technologies to focus on going forward. Despite these new areas of focus, however, Romine said he will carry over many of the priorities of his predecessor Furlani, who he said left things in good shape at the agency.

NIST is responsible under the Federal Information Security Management Act for promulgating cybersecurity standards that federal agencies must follow, and Romine said that cybersecurity will also continue to be a priority for NIST in 2012. "Cybersecurity is never going away in the foreseeable future," he said.

For one, NIST is "rapidly creating" a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, an effort to increase collaboration between NIST and other agencies and the private sector on the development of cybersecurity-related technologies. Among other things, the center will offer pilot programs for private sector entities that want to be on the forefront of cybersecurity innovation.

NIST is also playing a key role in the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, a government-industry project to foster the development and adoption of more robust identity and authentication technologies on the Internet. On this front, NIST recently announced requests for proposals for five to eight pilots that would last as long as two years and would asses issues like interoperability and usability. According to Romine, NIST will be "aggressive" about pushing out pilot identity projects.

Cloud computing is another effort in which NIST has recently played an active role. The agency took the early lead in developing the FedRAMP shared security authorization process for cloud services. NIST has been developing cloud standards as well, focusing a lot of that work around interoperability, privacy, and security, reliability, and usability.

IT's jumping into cloud services with too much custom code and too little planning, our annual State of Cloud Computing Survey finds. The new Leap Of Cloud Faith issue of InformationWeek shows you what to be aware of when using the cloud. Also in this issue: Cloud success stories from Six Flags and Yelp, and how to write a SAN RFI. (Free registration required.)