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October 7, 2015

Survey: U.S. Big Data Projects Face IT Hurdles

George Leopold

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. government managers overseeing a growing number of big data projects are concerned they lack adequate computing, storage and networking infrastructure. Hence, federal agencies may find themselves in the position of collecting large data volumes while lacking the ability to analyze key data, and industry-sponsored survey found.

Unisys Corp., (UIS) which according to the web site Washington Technology, ranked 39th in 2014 with federal contracts worth more than $529 million, reported this week that 93 percent of U.S. agencies responding to its survey said they had launched big data projects. These respondents also said advanced data analytics have improved the quality and speed of decisions. Eighty-seven percent said analytics had their ability to predict trends and quantify risks.

While 73 percent are concerned about the lack of adequate IT infrastructure to support big data projects, a slightly lower percentage of respondents added that one consequence would be the ability to collect but not analyze key data.

Along with infrastructure concerns, only 16 percent of federal respondents reported they have fully implemented big data initiatives. About 40 percent of federal agencies polled by Unisys said they have no current plans to launch big data projects. Others said they are either conducting pilot projects or investigating their big data options.

Uncertainty over IT infrastructure to support big data stems in part from the slow federal rollout of cloud computing initiatives under a program called FedRAMP, or Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. Spy agencies like the CIA have moved quickly to deploy cloud infrastructure while others like the Defense Department have struggled to launch cloud and other infrastructure initiatives that would expand IT support for analytics efforts.

Unisys Federal, Reston, Va., is a leading government supplier of cloud and infrastructure services, applications, security tools and high-end server technology.

The contractor argues that data analysis and sharing insights across organizations remains among the biggest challenges for federal agencies. As with the private sector, the government also is having trouble recruiting and retaining qualified data scientists. Unisys reported that 68 percent of survey respondents said their agencies are hiring more data analysts; half said their agencies are looking for a data analytics director.

Unisys and other federal contractors see an opening here since, according to the Unisys survey, 98 percent of respondents said they would maintain or increase their reliance on contractors and consultants to work on big data projects over the coming year.

“While government agencies have domain expertise, they also need skilled data scientists, tools and infrastructure to unlock the value of their data assets,” the company argued in releasing the results of its big data survey.

The company’s “Big Data-as-a-Service” approach combines a cloud platform with “custom analytics.” It positions the service as helping federal agencies cut through “analysis paralysis” in deciding which technology to adopt.

While the Obama administration has been a key promoter of big data, many federal agencies are struggling to get requisite IT initiatives off the ground. Efforts to make open source data more readily available to the private sector also have lagged.

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