cloud computing, Enterprise IT, NASA, sticky, tech

Chris Kemp Quits, as Fed Budget and Inertia Beat Govtrepeneurs Down

Chris Kemp, who had a few short weeks ago been greeted with rockstar fervor at the Cloud/Gov conference in Washington, DC, has stepped down from his role as NASA’s Chief Technology Officer for Information Technology.  Kemp was the champion of NASA’s Nebula program, the agency’s private cloud effort , and helped with the General Services Administration’s launch of the cloud service program. But in the face of budget cuts and continued institutional resistance to his agenda for changing government IT, Kemp submitted his resignation in March.

“Whereas I thought I had the best of both worlds being a Headquarters employee stationed in Silicon Valley,” Kemp said in a blog post announcing his move, “I actually had the worst of both worlds… no influence when I can’t be in all of those meetings at NASA HQ, with no mandate to manage projects at Ames. As budgets kept getting cut and continuing resolutions from Congress continued to make funding unavailable, I saw my vision for the future slowly slip further from my grasp.”

Kemp’s dillema, while certainly higher profile than that of many state and local CIOs and CTOs, is hardly unique.  With revenues at historic lows, and budgets tight, it’s perhaps harder than ever to try to achieve meaningful change in the way agencies run their information technology, even at tech-focused agencies like NASA.  At the federal level, the budget standoff threatens to put major initiatives that could actually save the government more money on hold.

But perhaps more dangerous, the uncertainties around IT budgets and programs at all levels of government can be demoralizing, particularly to the most talented and valuable members of IT organizations who have options elsewhere.  As other employment opportunities emerge, government IT organizations could see an exodus of talent, making it even more difficult to do more with less.


Enterprise IT, State & Local, tech

Why You Should Buy Storage Stocks: Electronic Health Records

I was talking the other day to the network administrator of a 70-bed hospital with a dozen internal physicians’ practices about the trials and tribulations of achieving the first phase of the “meaningful use” standards set by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s embedded Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.  Yes, I sometimes talk to people about such things.  And maybe more people should.

Back when they passed the “bailout” bill (ARRA) last year, Congress embedded the HITECH Act, which basically offers a bounty to hospitals if they can not just put electronic health records in place, but use them in a meaningful way across their organization to improve care, reduce errors, and reduce paperwork.  There’s a big cash reward for meeting Phase I of these standards before the end of 2011–$2 million, plus $200 for every patient discharged past the 1150th patient and up to the 23,000th patient. In other words, high-volume hospitals could see as much as $6.37 million in incentives in the first year.  That amount goes down by a quarter for each succeeding year.  So over 4 years, hospitals that comply with meaningful use could see between $5 million and $10.9 million.

Not enough of an incentive? There’s a stick with that carrot–hospitals that don’t get their IT systems in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s security and privacy standards are exposed to potential government civil suits and penalties. And the Department of Health and Human Services has finally started to get serious about HIPAA–Prince Georges’ County, MD based Cignet can tell you about that.

So, hospitals are paying out a big chunk of their capital budgets this year, if they haven’t in previous years, to upgrade their patient information systems.  And they’re discovering that electronic health record systems are, to put it bluntly, storage pigs.

The network administrator I was talking to said that in the two years they’ve had their EHR system in place, their tier 1 storage requirements — that’s their mission-critical online data storage–has grown by almost 500 percent.   Mind you, this is a relatively small hospital, and that 500 percent increase came from going from 20 terabytes to almost 100 terabytes.

But those storage requirements grow daily. And as they bring their systems into meaningful use compliance,  their audit trail data will amount to about another terabyte of data a month–which they’ll have to retain for seven years or so.  So, add another 84 terabytes of audit trails over 7 years, plus whatever natural growth in records they have from new patients, emergency room visits, and visits to the dozen or so physicians practices they own.

In other words, the big winner from ARRA HITECH is the storage industry.  The storage dillema of that small hospital is being writ small, medium, and large across the country at every clinic, doctor’s office, and hospital.  That means petabytes of new storage sitting in someone’s data center somewhere.

Enterprise IT

HHS Takes a Bite out of a HIPAA Violator

Threatpost reports that HHS is finally taking action against at least the most blatant violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s privacy rules. Sort of:

The health care industry’s toothless tiger finally bared its teeth, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a $4.3 m fine to a Maryland health care provider for violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The action is the first monetary fine issued since the Act was passed in 1996.

via HIPAA Bares Its Teeth: $4.3m Fine For Privacy Violation | threatpost.

Perhaps the Obama administration can even further reduce the cost of the healthcare reform laws by really enforcing HIPAA, and using the rules as a revenue generator — like some small towns do with speeding tickets.

Enterprise IT, virtualization

Virtual Integrated System Blog – Government – Are Feds Putting the Cloud Before the Horse?

The Obama administration has made “Cloud First” a key part of its strategy for creating a more efficient government IT infrastructure. But simply adopting cloud-based services for new IT acquisitions isn’t going to make the IT management situation any easier.

“We’re hearing from many agencies that the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) will consider cloud as a core element as part of a larger strategy around IT services,” said Kevin Smith, Dell’s marketing director for the Virtual Integrated System architecture, at a recent Ziff Davis Enterprise eSeminar on cloud in the government. “But there has been some criticism, from those who feel that agencies should continue to create open, manageable and uniform infrastructures before they start shifting to cloud platforms.”

As I’ve mentioned here previously, the federal government has been pretty aggressive about creating open cloud standards. The Federal CIO Council’s FedRAMP initiative and the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s SAJACC efforts have laid the groundwork for security and interoperability standards for cloud services, and NASA’s contributions to the OpenStack initiative to create an open-source cloud infrastructure have done a lot to create an open implementation of cloud computing that others can build on. But all the interoperability in the world doesn’t help get the government’s application infrastructure out of its sprawling population of data centers and into a shared cloud environment.

Federal IT initiatives will not be well-served by simply buying software-as-a-service, or platform-as-a-service, or infrastructure-as-a-service from an approved provider and then throwing virtual servers into the cloud. Adding externally hosted cloud resources to the management stack for federal IT managers who are trying to consolidate their internal applications in accordance with OMB’s data center goals just creates another degree of complexity in the process, and another set of processes and management tools that need to be mastered by IT staff.

Read the rest of this post at:

Virtual Integrated System Blog – Government – Are Feds Putting the Cloud Before the Horse?.