Insight by Red Hat

Agencies have made the move to dev/ops processes, now it’s all about the culture

Joel Jackson, the director of emerging technology for Red Hat’s North America Public Sector group, said agencies need to have a sprinting mindset from the beginning of any application development effort.

The Concept of Microservices

I think the biggest challenge now when it comes to microservices is the culture part. It’s not a technology problem. There are a lot of tools that help you enable micro processes and give you guardrails to make sure you stay in the lanes.

Federal Use Cases

You want to have a sprinting capability right off the bat. The mindset of how you are going to get features into a product from the get-go.

The general acceptance of the cloud and the implementation of the dev/sec/ops culture is opening the doors for the next evolution across government.

The use of micro-services and automation to help agencies move faster, more efficiently as they develop software and services with their vendor partners.

The Food and Drug Administration, for example, was one of the first agencies to take advantage of micro-services to move away from a center-centric support model where there are dedicated teams to teams focusing on products or capabilities.

In another example, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is leading the way with automation. USCIS is deploying code through an immutable process to get code into a cloud environment on an hourly or daily basis.

And over at the Homeland Security Department, its chief information officer’s office is building something they call a cloud factory. This idea will support the ability of the agency to build, test and deploy software code through a dev/ops approach to quickly improve operational and mission applications.

These are just three examples of how agencies are taking advantage of new development techniques to accelerate their IT modernization efforts and open the door a bit wider for innovation.

Joel Jackson, the director of emerging technology for Red Hat’s North America Public Sector group, said all of these approaches bring together the key building blocks of modern software design–cloud, automation and microservices–and underpin federal IT modernization efforts.

“The concept of microservices is well established. It’s not a new concept. The majority of our customers understand what it is, but they just don’t know how to implement that inside their agency,” Jackson said on the Innovation in Government show, sponsored by Carahsoft. “I think the biggest challenge now when it comes to microservices is the culture part. It’s not a technology problem. There are a lot of tools that help you enable micro processes and give you guardrails to make sure you stay in the lanes.”

Jackson said culture change involves agencies changing the way they develop software or buy software development services from recognizing the initial need to the final delivery of the application.

“You want to have a sprinting capability right off the bat. The mindset of how you are going to get features into a product from the get-go. That’s the first part, the planning, which is difficult for the federal government,” he said. “Then operationally, that also requires a lot of culture change. How do you maintain systems that are changing faster? You’ve got all these certifications that typically the monolithic applications used to have to go through. If you are just changing one component of that now, do you have to do different certifications? There’s a whole gamut of culture change.”

One solution that is quickly emerging is the concept of kubernetes, which Google made popular three or four years ago, to help usher in the culture change even faster.

Kubernetes is the idea that agencies can use containers to develop specific pieces of an application and then manage and orchestrate them across the network.

Jackson said kubernetes now is the de facto tool to organize and manage containers.

“It can be the one thing that stays the same while everything else changes,” he said. “It’s a lot of the promise Linux gave back in the day. You can write your application in Red Hat Linux and swap out your hardware partners. That’s kind of the promise of kubernetes too. If you write your applications to a kubernetes layer and then you might be able to compete your cloud provider in the future. Writing it once to a kubernetes platform allows you to move to different cloud platform without having to rewrite all that code.”

In many ways, kubernetes or containerization is part of the evolution of agencies moving to cloud.

Jackson said ability for applications to be portable means agencies can find the right cloud provider based on the current needs, and those requirements change over time.

Jackson said Red Hat is working with a law enforcement agency on using kubernetes and microservices to transform their development processes to use agile development approaches.

“That has not been easy. We are probably in year three of that contract. But it’s absolutely a real thing and it provides a ton of real value when you can push out features to the [user] in a very fast way,” he said. “They have broken their monolithic application into about 2,000 to 3,000 microservices.”

Jackson said one benefit of using kubernetes is it makes an organization understand what applications they have and which ones are ready for the cloud.

“Once you do that, if you can at least draw the line in the sand and say ‘I’m going to build my new applications this way,’ and stop doing it the old way. This gives you a new application development platform,” he said. “You can get a lot of benefits out of just doing that even if you can’t move any of your old applications over.”

ABOUT RED HAT

Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to deliver reliable and high-performing Linux, hybrid cloud, container, and Kubernetes technologies. Red Hat helps customers integrate new and existing IT applications, develop cloud-native applications, standardize on our industry-leading operating system, and automate, secure, and manage complex environments. Award-winning support, training, and consulting services make Red Hat a trusted adviser to the Fortune 500. As a strategic partner to cloud providers, system integrators, application vendors, customers, and open source communities, Red Hat can help organizations prepare for the digital future.

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