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February 12, 2013

Big Data Cloud Combo Boosts Government

Isaac Lopez

A golden age of government efficiency may be right around the corner as various government agencies move forward into an IT age that combines big data and cloud computing.

In a recent talk at the Defining Cloud for Government Conference and Educational Forum in Sacramento, Peter Linnell, SUSE Linux Technical Specialist discussed how the combination of big data and cloud computing will help officials reduce planning lead times, increase both cross departmental as well as IT efficiencies, and enable new and innovative services for citizens – all while helping with better informed decision-making.

In his discussion, Linnell painted a picture where using a combined big data and cloud solution, agencies would be able to share data and compute power in new and less expensive ways that allow governments to increase services and efficiencies while reducing costs.

“Imagine if we were able to combine things like tax data and land planning with other sorts of data such as Medicare and Medicaid payments, and actually use those for detecting the outliers that help to detect fraud,” explained Linnell. “Mixing and matching data from different departments that are currently siloed give [officials] the opportunity to do new and different kinds of things very efficiently.”

Linnell explained that as more cities and states have compute on demand available to their various departments, agencies will share data and compute power in new and less expensive ways, providing better informed decision-making. As an example, Linnell cited the work New York City Police Commissioner, William Bratton did in revolutionize New York City Policing through a big data solution. “They took a chunk of historical data and geographic information and dumped it into a big datastream – they then saw on a nice dashboard where crimes were committed.” Linnell explained using these advanced technologies they were able to improve their decision-making on where to station their officers to prevent and respond to crime.

The combination of big data and cloud computing is where the efficiency magic can be found, says Linnell. “What I call clouds – what I’m thinking about is compute on demand – that’s the real advantage,” explains Linnell. “As an agency, you don’t have to say, ‘ok we’ve got to write an RFP for this big stack of servers, this networking gear, and these services to implement and support it. If it’s in the state datacenter and you’ve got a cloud that you can get access to, that shortened your process by how many months?”

Linnell explained that the combination of big data and cloud computing is a natural fit in a government environment, where agencies get their batches of data in fixed time frames (daily, nightly weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.). “Most of the big data solutions are very much batch oriented, so they really work well in a shared environment.”

While these advanced technologies increase efficiencies while giving city managers the ability to be more creative in their problem solving, it won’t come without challenges. Linnell explained that staffing is a key challenge that government faces as it moves into the big data age. “Most of the really sharp guys are being lured into companies with big stock options.”

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