Agencies Look to Reap Benefits from Overlapping Tech Initiatives

Published: July 23, 2014

Cloud ComputingDigital GovernmentDHSInnovationDOIOpen Source

Federal agencies are taking a variety of approaches to address increasing requirements for cost efficiency and technology advancement. As adoption of new capabilities matures, technologies are being combined to deliver greater value.

Lower IT budgets and technology mandates are two drivers that have spurred agencies to explore ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Initiatives to reduce duplicative investments are one way in which government organizations are seeking to consolidate costs and streamline investment. Another shift has come in the form of cloud computing, which is allowing agencies to shift IT spending from capital expenditure to operational expenditure. Adoption of cloud solutions has been heralded as a means to deliver greater capabilities and promised cost savings. The need for greater flexibility around data is leading agencies give greater consideration to open source software. Strategic sourcing, shared services, automation, analytics – there are numerous other examples of agency efforts to increase capabilities without breaking their budgets.

As agencies clarify their future vision, approaches and technologies are being combined to yield greater impact. For example, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) moved all its public-facing websites to Drupal in 2012. The shift allowed DHS to more easily share and manage code through a single, common platform. A large number of government sites have current and planned uses for migrating to open source solutions, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), JBOSS, Drupal, and PostgreSQL. There’s also been public discussion of how the White House’s move to open source has impacted its technology achievements.

Earlier this year, the Department of Interior issued a notice seeking support for migrating to an Open Source, Cloud-based Content Management System. At the end of June, a contract for the effort was awarded. Considering the progress around implementation of these solutions, the move isn’t that surprising. It is, however, noteworthy because it’s a first for government. According to Tim Fullerton, director of digital strategy at DOI, Interior hopes to set an example for other agencies. The combined benefits of the consolidated, cloud-based, enterprise-wide content management system leveraging open source software spare DOI software licensing fees and offer nearly 100% uptime for their websites.

This is a model that other agencies are likely to follow. Increasingly, agencies are looking for enterprise solutions that can scale and adapt to numerous, varied requirements. At the same time, instead of buying a proprietary solution, agencies are considering open source solutions more frequently (where they make sense). Interior hopes other agencies can benefit from the move. As Fullerton puts it, “Since we've gone through the contracting process, agencies can go to DOI if they need help and adjust the documentation to meet their needs."

To be sure, vendors will have to contend with some of the lingering barriers to cloud implementation and the hurdles (and misconceptions) around open source solutions. The model, however, is bound to have appeal for organizations aiming to focus resources on website content rather than function and maintenance.