Remember when “government” and “innovation” were once considered mutually exclusive concepts, never uttered in the same breath? The state of play for federal IT in 2016 paints a much more promising picture. Truly, we have never witnessed a more disruptive period in the history of the information technology industry, with the agencies across the federal spectrum adapting and adopting new technologies with the speed and flexibility usually attributed to the private sector.

And yet, we could have just as easily been mired in a relative “dark age” of information sharing in government, were it not for the even-keeled prudence and vision of agency heads. The last five years were marked by serious reminders that security threats are ever-present and ever-evolving.

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Candidly, I believe the national security document disclosure was the most significant technological incident of the decade and will have extensive, lasting impacts for many more decades. On a more personal level: along with millions of Americans, I too was caught up in the upheaval and dismay caused by the OPM data breach in 2015.  A false tax return was submitted in my name, and my own personal sense of cybersecurity was threatened.

But rather than have these two incident be a knockout combo compelling the federal government to build information “silos,” the federal government has leaned forward.  Agencies are embracing the tremendous advances in information technology when it come so combining mobility, technological agility and security prowess – and are embracing new, muscular capabilities.

In short: we’re seeing an IT renaissance in the federal government. 

Thankfully, private sector IT is better poised than ever to assist in guiding the IT evolution and security maintenance of a clearly willing public sector partner, as evidenced by the standing room turnout by top government Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) at our Public Sector Innovation Summit last week.

We are seeing a tectonic shift in public sector adoption of IT virtualization. It is certainly helpful that federal cloud applications were endorsed and encouraged dating back to President Obama’s “Cloud First” directive at the start of the decade.

Now, government CIOs are eager to establish software-defined infrastructure that will allow their agencies to deploy hybrid cloud technologies and applications. They see private cloud services as critical assets to their operations. With the guidance of NIST frameworks, FedRAMP and FITARA, executives can integrate these capabilities without sacrificing the integrity and security of sensitive information.

Agency executives are also empowering mobile workforces – whether its USDA precision agriculturists having tablets in the cornfields or Congressional state staffers traveling among their constituents to provide real-time information in the field. Truly, mobility is no longer even an option for the federal government.   Work is no longer where you are, it’s what you’re doing.  With people using an average of three connected devices in 2016 – a number expected to double in five years – it’s critical government stay on pace with the agility private sector innovation now to get ahead of this particular issue.

Doesn’t more devices mean more inherent risks? Not necessarily, thanks to modern security micro-segmentation. With greater efficacy than ever, we can fine-tune and tailor the security perimeters around various layers of our software-defined infrastructure.  Think about it: when you walk into many gov’t buildings, you need a pass card to enter but also a pass card to get into different sections and rooms – we took that same approach to every node on a network to make sure give information more muscular security.  And this technology is now cost-efficient, a relief to skeptical executives still monitoring markups for their FY17 budget requests.

This is the new normal:  federal government adapting its IT infrastructure with the agility of the private sector. And we cannot go back to the way things were. Mobility is a trend that must be embraced. There is an expectation to aid productivity in the workplace. The well-being of millions of Americans depends on the personnel embedded across the country and the globe securing our borders, our commerce and our food supply. They must be able to work with flexibility without sacrificing security.

In recognition of this reality, VMware is proud to be a core provider of technology and vision for the federal government.  The vigorous conversation surrounding data security and personal privacy is one where we stand ready to equip leaders with the latest information for their decision-making.  It is our responsibility to play this role in the advancement of American society, and we relish the opportunity.


Pat Gelsinger is the Chief Executive Officer of VMware