DoD Cloud Exchange: Mark Valentine, Microsoft

This discussion with Microsoft is part of Federal News Network’s DoD Cloud Exchange.

The military’s efforts with cloud have moved from a nascent snowball to a tumbling boulder as it tacked on more capabilities and applications over the last few years.

Mark Valentine, general manager of the national security group at Microsoft, said the Defense Department has some positive momentum with cloud and there are specific things it’s doing to make that happen.

“Many people look at the private sector and see where they are with cloud and look at the Department of Defense, and think, ‘Wow, they seem to be behind the power curve.’ Actually, I don’t think that’s the case,” Valentine said during day two of Federal News Network’s DoD Cloud Exchange.

Due to DoD’s size, complexity and importance of its missions, Valentine said DoD is actually moving pretty quickly.

“In just about three short years, I’ve seen the department move out very boldly with experimentation across mission sets,” he said. “DoD is working on things like predictive maintenance of military vehicles. Data and cloud solutions are in the ground trucks and are in the airplanes and helicopters. It is enhancing the capabilities analysts have by using cloud computing to identify the virtual needle in the haystack from a video or a photo, or aggregating information and surfacing information in a way to support decision systems. It’s also improving weather forecasting capabilities.”

DoD is also using data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance cybersecurity, continuously improve software and incorporate virtual and augmented reality into training.

Valentine pointed to the Air Force’s Cloud One as a particular success story.

Obviously, the military has room for improvement too. Valentine said one of the biggest issues with cloud is a conceptual problem.

“We have a fundamental disconnect, where oftentimes people are confusing cloud computing and not understanding that it is simply a means to an end; it is not the end,” he said. “I like to take a step back and remind people that cloud computing is the ‘How.’ The most important thing is accomplishing the ‘What.’ If we can continue to focus on those ‘Whats,’ I think we will limit and box cloud computing into an area where it’s only focused on say, traditional IT-type capabilities, like delivering email.”

Valentine said DoD can’t lose sight of the abilities that cloud computing and even artificial intelligence and other technologies can facilitate.

One possibility to use cloud computing and other technologies as a catalyst is through low code or no code programs. Just like how some people are very good at Excel spreadsheets, Valentine said he thinks people are going to be very good at certain applications.

“They will just understand how to use these low-code- and no-code-type tools like the power platform,” he said. “They will build mission specific and unit specific applications. People from those disciplines and walks of life will share their data with them to make sense of the data and to build those mission unit specific applications to the benefit of that mission owner. I predict you’re going to see this marketplace where a mission owner, who perhaps built an application to make aircraft maintenance or scheduling more efficient will share that with other aircraft maintainers.”

From there Valentine said he expects a marketplace of applications that democratize capabilities that are now exclusive to those who can code well.



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