Insight by Leidos and Amazon Web Services

The data is in the cloud – now what?

This content is provided by Leidos and Amazon Web Services.

The cloud has already made it possible for federal agencies to store vast amounts of data while reducing their reliance on expensive enterprise data centers. Now the cloud is making it possible for agencies to consider sharing that data and putting it to use in ways they never had the resources to consider before.

“It’s not just how you cope with the amount of data, because the federal government has been really good for a very long time at collecting data,” said Brett McMillen, director of Federal Government at Amazon Web Services (AWS). “The question is how do you make that data usable, not only for the agency that collected it but throughout the agencies of the federal government? And most of the data citizens have already paid for, so they don’t need to pay again. It should be available to commercial entities and citizens.”

McMillen said AWS has been helping agencies employ analytics and figure out how to make that data available to other organizations so they can build on it. AWS works with systems integrators and AWS Premier Partners like Leidos to help agencies do that.

Keith Johnson, chief technology officer of Leidos’ defense and intelligence business areas, said moving from IT storage and compute as an enterprise resource to a shared resource helps agencies transition from a poverty to a wealth mindset. Agencies no longer need to consider compute and storage as a scarce resource, allowing them to experiment with their data more.

And that’s given agencies an opportunity to lead the way in using this data to improve civilians’ lives.

“Data is the lifeblood and currency of future innovation and the future marketplace we’re going to live in,” Johnson said. “The federal government plays a really important role in not just generating data but [from a policy perspective] determining how best to secure and store that data so only the right kinds of individuals can access it.”

Federal data can run the gamut from national security to citizens’ personally identifiable information, medical data, and sensor data. That sets the stage for the next big challenge cloud can help federal agencies overcome.

“How do you securely bring this together to uncover insights that will allow us as citizens to live better, more productive lives and at the same time innovate in a way that enables the commercial industry to leverage these for the betterment of our nation and our world?” Johnson asked.

A dataset generated by a federal agency is rarely useful only to that agency. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA collaborate on Landsat missions, which have provided satellite imagery and remote sensor data of the planet’s surface for more than four decades.

The data collected by that program is also useful to the Agriculture Department, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, state and local governments, and even private industry looking to build and develop on certain plots of land. Cloud makes it easier for all of these interested parties to share this data and securely build on it.

Another example is the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program spending. That money goes to state and local governments to disperse to those most in need. Everyone involved does a great job of collecting the data, McMillen said.

“But questions like ‘Is the right poverty-level family getting the right medical care that is needed?’ are hard to ask,” he said. “Because the money goes out from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and then you have 50 states that have the data in different formats, plus all the territories. So the cloud allows all of these organizations to normalize the data, and bring it back. Then you can look out across the spectrum and ask ‘In this zip code, are the right poverty-level families getting the right care?’ And when you start doing analytics against that, you’re starting to serve citizens more effectively.”

 

TECH TIP:  Just because you move data to the cloud doesn’t mean it’s optimized for sharing.

For cloud data to be optimized for sharing, it must be stored, secured, and enabled for discovery correctly.  When data is properly indexed and tagged, it becomes more useful to the entities sharing datasets for their particular missions.