PaaS (Platform as a Service) is the next step towards Cloud Technology

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a category of cloud computing services that provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run, and manage applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching it. PaaS can be delivered in two ways: as a public cloud service from a provider, where the consumer controls software deployment and configuration settings, and the provider provides the networks, servers, storage and other services to host the consumer’s application; or as software installed in private data centers or public infrastructure as a service and managed by internal IT departments.

Platform as a service promises significant savings of both time and money. The biggest names in cloud computing all offer PaaS solutions — as do countless providers that specialize in everything from mapping to content management to mobile app development. A few offerings already comply with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, and a 2013 survey of federal IT professionals found that 95 percent believed their agency would benefit from migrating to PaaS.

Now the reason why PaaS is mysterious for many is a matter of structure and security. Many of the most popular early PaaS solutions, such as Heroku and Engine Yard, were available only in the public cloud, limiting their practical appeal for most federal agencies. Today, however, a wide array of PaaS providers offer private enterprise versions, while Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry and Red Hat’s OpenShift also come in downloadable, open-source versions that can be hosted locally or in a user’s own cloud.

A more significant challenge, however, might be pinning down what qualifies as PaaS. While software as a service (SaaS) is now a familiar concept and the paired pressures of FedRAMP and data center consolidation have put infrastructure as a service (IaaS) on most agencies’ radar, PaaS remains something of the muddle in the middle — more easily defined by what it isn’t than what it is. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has detailed the differences between PaaS and its sibling services, but it boils down to this: In addition to virtualized and easily scalable hardware, PaaS provides a ready-to-use suite of code libraries, change-management tools and other application-building resources that the provider installs and maintains.

Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray said PaaS lets agencies “ideally begin to build up this library of reusable modules, much like a quilt,” so that functions such as user authentication or map-based data visualization can be built once and then used by many different systems. “Then in the future, if Congress…or the president asks us to do something, it’s not a matter of building a system from scratch.” There are many organizations adopting PaaS. “There are some early adopters scattered throughout government,” Bray said, particularly in the Defense Department and the intelligence community. However, PaaS remains aspirational for many agencies. In the 2013 survey (a Red Hat-sponsored MeriTalk study) that showed overwhelming belief in the benefits of PaaS, just 12 percent of respondents said they were already using it. And although 71 percent said they were at least considering a transition to PaaS, a recent search of FedBizOpps found just one solicitation in the past year that explicitly called for PaaS.

Other IT leaders said the slow embrace likely reflects uncertainty — not about PaaS’ potential benefits but about most agencies’ specific needs and the type of developer skills that will be available. Compared to IaaS, “PaaS has a greater degree of ease and efficiency, but it also comes with a significant loss of freedom,” one agency’s senior developer said. “The needs [can be] so diverse that paying for and committing to a platform as a service doesn’t make a lot of sense right now.”

A year to 18 months down the road, “once things settle down a bit,” the developer added, “that’s when we would commit to PaaS.” And even when an agency is prepared to zero in on a particular platform, there’s still the small matter of payment. With the operation and maintenance of legacy systems consuming 70 percent or more of agency IT budgets, there’s precious little money available to try something new — particularly when a PaaS investment cannot be directly tied to a mission system.

“That’s why we have to make the case to Congress for the initial investment” in PaaS, the FCC’s Bray said. “We need that little bit of breathing room so that we get out of the existing legacy model. Otherwise, the legacy model is just going to get more and more expensive.”

 

Editor’s Note: Ideas inspired from;


Tony K. Schneider. “Can PaaS carve out its place in the federal cloud?– FCW.”

FCW. N.p., Web. 28 Feb. 2016.

Who Will Protect the Government Against Cybercrime?

For the general public, identity theft, online security, and credit card fraud are an ever increasing concern in the technology age in which we live. But what about the federal government? Most people may think the government is impenetrable to cyber threats, hackers, and security breaches, but this is far from true. In fact, hackers are now probing the deepest layers of every federal government agency according to the Department of Homeland Security. The good news is that the cyber intruders are from the Department of Homeland Security. That’s right, DHS is conducting exercises to test vulnerabilities in federal computer systems that contain sensitive data, which are also prime targets for legitimately malicious hackers.

The strategy is part of the greater Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP), a plan proposed by President Obama that takes near-term actions and puts in place a long-term strategy to increase cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security and empower Americans to have more control of their digital security (www.whitehouse.gov).

When we think about how much of our personal information is stored online (e-mail, bank information, online stores, bill payment information, etc.), it’s important to remember that going paperless gives experienced hackers more ease of access to our digitized information especially when operating on unprotected networks or repeatedly using weak or multiple identical passwords. The infographic below explains how hackers think and what little regard they can have when it comes to stealing digital information.

After the 2015 breach of information from the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) system wherein the information of 21.5 million United States national security professionals and their families’ information was exposed, the Department of Homeland Security devised a civilian agency cybersecurity strategy as a part of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan. The agency’s utilization of the abovementioned authorized hacking comes as federal government agencies are taking stock of information technology tools and databases that would ultimately send the government into disarray if these tools and databases become compromised (www.nextgov.com).

Although this is not President Obama’s first endeavor to protect the United States against cybercrime, the plan does symbolize Obama’s last effort to ensure progress in an ongoing effort to strengthen the nation’s online security. Since 2010, $73 billion has been spent to protect the nation against organized cybercrime, but the President’s most recent plan will request an additional $19 billion in funding to support cybersecurity activities, which include a commission on enhancing national cybersecurity, public service campaigns, and funds for replacing antiquated, unsecure government information technology.

Just ten years ago, the idea of spending billions on the nations’ digital safety would have been unthinkable, but in 2016 and beyond, the concept of creating multibillion-dollar information technology systems and security is all too real. According to nextgov.com, designing new and more secure systems is an imperative as the latest high-profile hack of a Justice Department computer system leaked the contact information of 9,000 Department of Homeland Security personnel as well as 20,000 Federal Bureau of Investigation employees. With that being said, there is still much work to be done as adversaries of the United States are quickly learning that it may be easier to attack the nations’ cyber networks in both the public and private sector than it is to attack tangible areas.

As the President stated on Tuesday, 9 February 2016, “More and more, keeping America safe is not just a matter of more tanks, more aircraft carriers; not just a matter of bolstering our security on the ground. “It also requires us to bolster our security online” (www.nextgov.com). Obama’s plan allows the Federal Government to acquire new information now and lays forward the conditions necessary for long-term progression in the government’s approach to protecting the cybersecurity of the Federal Government, the private sector, and in personal lives (Fact Sheet: Cybersecurity National Action Plan). Thus, President Obama’s cybersecurity plan is designed not only to protect the government and individual citizens, but to also protect the companies that store vast amounts of sensitive data belonging to the general American public.

 

 

 

 

Crowd GPS Technology busy in wooing the world?

Habit of forgetting things often? Propensity to misplace car-keys knowing how irritating it is to look for them whilst you are running late? Well, technology companies have solution for every little problem these days. When you’ve lost something, another set of eyes can spot clues that your own eyes inadvertently ignore.

In 2013, a crowdfunded project known as the Tile became a smash hit, racking up over $2,500,000 in funding from nearly 50,000 backers. The secret to its success? Simple: The Tile promised to help users locate any object attached to the coin-sized Bluetooth-connected tag priced at $20. Similar Project; Phone Halo’s TrackR was trying to establish this idea. However, both these projects TrackR and Tile used similar technology. This technology uses a small handy instrument (TrackR is a small, circular device and Tile is a small, square device). You attach them to things you’d miss if they went missing, and when those things inevitably do go missing, you can use your smartphone app to make the TrackR or Tile beep so as to find them. They also try to find your stuff when it’s farther away near you. Both of these products use the concept of “crowdsourcing” and Crowd GPS.

Crowd GPS is based on the idea that if you can’t find something, say, your keys, maybe someone else can — as long as they also happen to be using the TrackR or Tile app (iOS and Android), with Bluetooth turned on and crowd GPS enabled. Your lost keys will give off a unique identifier that can be detected by other people’s apps, sending you GPS data about where they are.

In addition to using the crowd to learn your lost item’s GPS coordinates, the TrackR app also helps you find things that are close by, and alerts you before you walk away from a spot without bringing your phone or TrackR-labeled device. This works by setting off an alarm on the device when it and your phone are separated by more than 100 feet. Likewise, if you press a tiny button on the TrackR, it can locate your iPhone or Android phone by setting off an alarm on the phone, even if the phone is in silent mode.

So what happens when your Tile/ TrackR can’t be located by going back to the last place your app saw it?

Tile calls it the “Community Find” feature. Turns out, every person who keeps the Tile app open on their iOS device becomes a node in a much larger Tile network. For example, were there 5 Tiles at the Starbucks this morning? Your Tile app took note of them. Your cubicle mate left their Tiled keys at their desk during lunch while you worked straight through? Your Tile app knows that too, even if you and your cube mate don’t. The same will be true for your Tiles.

If there’s a killer ingredient to the Tile, this is it: By leveraging the combined tracking power of thousands of Tile users (er, Tilers?), that paltry 150-foot Bluetooth radius is amplified many times over

While Tile’s ability to notify you of nearby lost items via alarms is helpful, it’s not unique. They need enough people to use its app to make its crowd tracking worthwhile, and they won’t likely use the app unless they have a device. The Community Find method relies on people having the Tile app installed — and running — on their iOS device. If the app is closed, it cannot track the presence of Tiles.

One key factor to remember with both of these networks is that their crowd GPS techniques rely on strong communities of users. That means that people who live in more densely populated areas, like big cities, are more likely to have luck when tapping the crowd for finding lost things. And, of course, the product has to have a lot of people using it in order for the crowd GPS to really work well.

 

Could Pay Disparities Ever Become an Issue of the Past?

If you have ever been curious about whether or not your salary is the same, less, or more than your co-worker who performs the same job duties as your own, you are not alone. In fact, pay inequality is still a huge issue in America with women—especially minority women—experiencing the greatest disparities in wages and benefits. In light of this pay disparity, the federal government is taking the necessary steps to mitigate this long standing wage gap issue.

Indeed, as of Friday, 29 January 2016, President Barack Obama announced an executive action that would mandate companies with over 100 employees or more to report to the federal government how much they pay their employees broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity (www.govexec.com). In 2009, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows employees to file lawsuits concerning equal pay for up to six months after a discriminatory paycheck. President Obama’s latest legislation—the Paycheck Fairness Act—concurs with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and is being simultaneously published by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor (www.govexec.com).

In 2016, Caucasian women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men on average, while African-American and Hispanic women earn only 64 cents and 55 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to men on average. For women, the gender pay gap reduces the amount of lifetime earnings and also affects their pensions, which is a substantial reason for the impoverishment of women in their later lives (Gender Pay Gap and the Struggle for Equal Pay). Furthermore, unequal pay based on gender is problematic because women who work full-time, year round in the United States earn $10,876 less per year in median earnings—an economic imbalance for women and their families.

On Friday, 5 February 2016, President will call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. If passed, the Paycheck Fairness Act will establish an essential foundation for progress toward realizing equal pay, as well as encouraging and fostering greater voluntary compliance by employers with existing federal pay laws, including the evaluation of how they are currently paying their employees (www.whitehouse.gov).

Although research explains there has been a lack of progress in closing the pay gap due to the fact that neither men nor women have seen a meaningful increase in median earnings since 2009, unequal pay in the workplace is unacceptable. If employers truly want to level the playing field, being more transparent about pay and compensation is necessary to acknowledge this longstanding issue. The infographic below provides an analysis about why the Paycheck Fairness act is so important for advancing equality in the workplace.

The Paycheck Fairness Act can be seen as a pragmatic measure to ensure that women are paid the same amount as their male counterparts. For now, the federal government is taking steps in the right direction to eliminate the gender pay gap, but for now, the private sector can do its part by disclosing their gender pay gaps as an initial effort to close them.