General Services Administration's CIO Looks To The Cloud

Casey Coleman reveals the GSA's role in driving a government-wide cloud computing initiative and other IT priorities.
InformationWeek: One of the things that comes up repeatedly in your strategic plan is the existence of silos, stovepiped systems, and decoupled services. What are you doing to eliminate or consolidate some of those, and where are the biggest pain points that you'd like to see closed up?

Coleman: The next step to eliminating stovepipes is really identity and access management. Rather than each application and each system having its own user ID and password, we'll be using our managed smart cards for two-factor authentication so we can reduce the number of user IDs and passwords, improve security, improve our audit trail so we know when access was granted and when it was removed for those employees and contractors using our systems.

InformationWeek: What are the longer-term things you'd like to do?

Data center consolidation is one. I'd like to move toward voice over IP, toward unified communications and softphones to better support our telework initiative and provide more unified capabilities on the desktop.

InformationWeek:, that runs on Terremark's cloud infrastructure. What drove that choice to run that there, rather than just in a traditional facility?

Coleman: They had a lot of areas where they wanted to do more innovation, but their appropriation was at a certain level and there wasn't going to be a lot more money coming. It was time to renegotiate their hosting contract anyway. They put it up for re-competition, but wrote the statement of work to try to capture some of the developments in cloud computing and capture some of the cost efficiencies that industry now can offer. I believe they were able to save something like 80 to 90% of what previously they had been spending.

InformationWeek: What are you guys doing to be more transparent and open within OCIO [Office of the Chief Information Officer] and to the public?

Coleman: We publish a quarterly report on all of our service levels, our costs and the status of development initiatives, and I'd like to take that further and put that on our Intranet site so any employee can see when we're going to move to the next version of the e-mail client, for example. We've really stepped up our transparency internally, and I think that's as important as transparency to the public because of GSA's mission as a provider of business capabilities to the federal government.

That's not to say we don't have a public mission. We're participating in and providing all the stimulus spending that we are doing through that mechanism, and all of our contract and procurement data is going to be through There's a lot of room for improvement in terms of making the data more useful, but we do try to make it available.

InformationWeek: What are you doing to accelerate your telework initiative?

Coleman: Longer term, we'd like to allow an open network where any device can be used on our network if properly authenticated, and that would be helpful in the event that power went out and people were told not to report to work but that wasn't foreseen and they didn't take laptops with them. We are deploying an enterprise version of Citrix to allow just that.

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