Executive Insight: Shawn Kingsberry: A Strategic Roadmap for Implementing Cloud-Based Technologies
Shawn Kingsberry, Assistant Director of Technology and Chief Information Officer, Recovery and Accountability Transparency Board discusses A Strategic Roadmap for Implementing Cloud-Based Technologies. An expert on the cloud, he and Rob Groat, Chief Technology Officer, Smartronix, presented the Keynote Address at Digital Government Institute's September 22 Cloud-Enabled Government Conference & Expo. Read DGI’s interview with Shawn.
DGI: How did you build the recovery.gov site?
SK: We started building a physical infrastructure at the Savvis data center service, one of the largest data center providers in North America. We wanted to make sure we used a proven provider that has the infrastructure to stay up and running.
DGI: What kind of backup did you embed in the site?
SK: Everything was redundant. If the infrastructure at Savvis went down, the public wouldn’t even know it. All components were in a high availability configuration. When we moved to the cloud we actually obtained better redundancy because we had datacenter and geographic redundancy. And instead of having one datacenter being active and the second one being passive we were able to obtain an active – active capacity. That’s nearly impossible in a physical data center without doubling your infrastructure costs.
DGI: What advice would you give other agencies in developing the best robust site?
SK: Make the cloud your first priority. We stood up the cloud as the physical hardware was being stood up in Savvis. We have massive redundancy in cloud. Lay out your business and security requirements. Get a good integrator and make sure cost savings are part of your requirements.
DGI: Describe what you built into the site and how you tested it?
SK: We tested it at multiple levels. We developed use cases by category of customer from public recipients, press, concerned citizens, administration, special interest, Congress, state and local governments, Congress, watchdogs and academia. We made a calculation about what these customers would be interested We did public forums where we got lots of feedback from different ways to solve the problem. There was a lot of two-way communications that led to standup.
DGI: What was your timetable?
SK: We initially launched recovery.gov without any rich data or any geography tools in February 2009. The goal was to meet timeline and communicate what we were launching. Between February and September 2009, we did a lot of communication, we were posting documents and communicating out.
On Sept. 28, 2009, we launched the redeployment, incorporating ESRI, the largest mapping company in the world. Microsoft became a big partner, and recovery.gov became the largest public-facing share point website in the federal government if not the world.
After we redeployed in September, we got to a point in 2010 where we normalized. We turned to executing our Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) plan. Then we worked on moving the whole site to the Cloud. We looked at performance, cost, timeframe, scope, risk analysis and security. It was a no brainer to move to the cloud. On April 26, 2010, we officially launched in the cloud.
DGI: What are the benefits of the cloud?
SK: In the first fiscal year, there were savings of $750,000. The longterm savings are in the millions. You increase your security posture by moving to a cloud service model. By consolidating all of your systems to a virtualized infrastructure, you have better visibility to your system and can react quicker to any problem. You have elasticity and better performance. You also have on demand provisioning. If we need new capabilities we don’t have to wait weeks for the procurement cycle and deployment. We can provision what we need almost instantly and because of that we are much more agile. Amazon is the cloud service provider. Smartronix is the integrator.
DGI: Can you give us five tips for every agency to follow in developing their own foolproof site?
- Clearly lay out your business requirements; keep technology separate.
- Hire an integrator who understands enterprise complexities.
- Develop a cost saving strategy and timeline.
- Extremely focus on your security.
- Don’t focus on saving the world. Take incremental steps so you can feel the results of what you’re doing.