In this Q&A series, Nick Psaki, Principal Technologist at Pure Storage has discussed the major challenges faced by government agencies and best practices for overcoming these challenges to implement successful data infrastructure modernization. Once agencies have uncomplicated their data, they can use it to drive the growth and evolution of government. In the final part of this Q&A series, we talk with Psaki about how data is the most valuable asset that agencies have at their disposal.
Government Technology Insider (GTI): What are some of the ways you’ve seen data unification drive agency evolution?
Nick Psaki (NP): Data unification has driven the cataloging and consolidation of data at the abstract layer, while understanding that data only exists on a large scale. The wholesale level is in three forms: block, file, or object. There are no other forms, that’s how we interchange data and information systems.
Working out the semantics to make sure the data can be transmuted or translocated from one place to another, while retaining its integrity and understandability has been a huge policy driver. It’s been talked about a lot, but the fundamental importance of that is only really being appreciated by people who have seen it evolve over time.
I have also seen a tremendous effort across metadata standardization. When I was in the Army G2, we were stakeholders in the intelligence community’s effort to standardize its metadata so that we were all talking about data the same way with a coherent language. An example of this is Open Data, a consolidated place in which government data is made available to citizens for leveraging in other ways.
Primary cloud service providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft taught us something. Those environments are huge and tremendously heterogeneous. There are many different types of data in those environments. And yet those organizations are able to adopt that data, absorb it, and provide it back out to whoever needs it. By doing so, they prove what is possible to achieve with data unification.
Google has been exceptional at this because they are a 100 percent data driven company. They integrate and leverage data across multiple platforms to drive their business. Fundamentally, the government works the same way. There’s a tremendous amount of variety and volume of data out there. The efforts of agencies across the government have been focused on how to normalize it and make it readily available, while maintaining confidentiality protections.
Data unification has provided a consolidated means for government agencies to be able to affect that grand data strategy. I believe there has been a greater emphasis from the top levels of government, from the Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. CIO, and agency Chief Data Officers, on the primacy of data and the need to manage it in a coherent, holistic fashion.
The adoption of storage technologies that enable all those things really ties back to what I said before. Agencies that implement successful transformation strategies always start by asking why, and then they worked on how. But the need and purpose for it, and then the methodology for doing data unification, data consolidation, and data stewardship, has evolved tremendously in the past ten years.
GTI: Is there anything else you’d like to include?
NP: The thing that we have to be cognizant of is that data growth is going to continue to accelerate. There’s going to be more data. Agencies need to think of data in terms of gravity. The denser your data gets, the harder it is to move anywhere or do anything with it.
Over 50 percent of all data is now generated by other machines and not by people. The extraordinary scale at which artificial intelligence needs to leverage data in order to train itself, improve itself, and adapt itself is going to require an explosive increase in both network bandwidth and data leverage.
We need to look at technologies that will enable us to maintain agility in an era of explosive data growth with the advent of 5G networks, the Internet, and the profusion of devices that generate data on their own. The underlying data service infrastructure needs to advance tremendously in order to be able to leverage and make use of data in the future.
What we’re going to have to address is how do we leverage it, protect it, make it available for wholesome purposes, and then what are the technologies of the future that are going to enable that to happen. We also need to work closely with industry partners, particularly those who specialize in data at scale.
Data is the most important asset that every organization has because it drives everything about every organization’s mission.
The new use cases that will arise are things that we need to pay attention to. The challenges that are ahead of us in terms of how we leverage data and move it are things that I think are pretty well understood and being worked on across industry and government, and oftentimes in partnership with each other. But those public-private partnerships are going to be essential to successful outcomes in the future.
Learn how to uncomplicate your data forever here.