An executive in charge of advanced technology research and development programs discusses growth despite reduced budgets, data demands, data visualization, and cloud computing.
To what do you attribute success?
As the government downsizes its acquisitions, it's difficult for larger defense contractors to scale down to [smaller projects]; their process doesn't scale down very well. We're relatively small and nimble. We are able to scale up and down very easily. That agility is really key.
You need to be able to scale your software development processes, as well. Some companies invoke more process than is necessary for some projects and they aren't able to scale. It causes more cost. If the government is trying to downsize, they're looking for well documented, well produced software and just enough process to make sure that it meets their requirements but not overkill that costs so much that it's out of the cost range the government can afford. As the government space tightens budgets and becomes more averse to large contracts, we're going to capture these efforts, be responsive, and deliver just in time at a decent cost. That's our model.
Why is the use of data visualization, event analysis, pattern detection, and cloud computing growing?
The volume of data that humans produce is growing astronomically every year, and the government produces more than your average individual. You need tools to analyze and visualize data so you can derive knowledge from massive volumes of data-that's where we focus.
In the government space, companies are increasingly offloading data processing into the cloud. It allows you to scale infinitely without having to have localized servers and data centers. As long as you have a fast bus, you can scale just by adding nodes. That's going to be a growth area as we go forward in the Department of Defense (DOD).
Is the adoption of open source and GOTS products growing?
The total cost of ownership is dramatically lower with government off the shelf (GOTS) vs. buying commercial licenses and paying recurring maintenance costs year after year. Open source allows flexibility you just can't get any other way. Everybody can use open-source code and take a huge leap in terms of where they are starting from; you're not starting at ground zero every time you develop something, so you're saving the government money.
The flexibility open source provides is a differentiator. If you look at the mobile space today, the government (the DOD, in particular) is still finding its way, trying to decide between the Apple iOS and Android OS. Android is open source, so when an agency wants to make a change, they can do it themselves or pay a contractor to change that open-source code and deploy it to the enterprise. With iOS, they'd have to convince Apple that it's in their financial interest to change it. I've heard that it's not a big enough market for Apple, but it's where open source shines.
NAME: Carl Houghton
TITLE: Vice president of strategic initiatives
CO.: Intelligent Software Solutions
ROLE: Software & services company in the government sector, including defense and homeland security