ICON & GOLD Teaming Up To Explore Earth’s Interface to SpaceFor years, Federal agencies have struggled to drive efficiencies while addressing the growing volume and increasing size of geospatial data. Legacy stove-pipe connectivity and desktop thick-clients have prevented traditional production environments from achieving the potential of a modern cloud-based architecture. Coupled with responsive web-based components, the cloud offers a seamless framework to automate tasks such as data ingestion, pre-processing and product generation. AIS is proud to be helping our users migrate into these next-generation production environments.

Our Federal team is currently involved with multiple projects that foster the adoption of cloud-based tasking, ingestion, processing and visualization using open-source web technologies. We foster an approach to migrating data processing algorithms from research groups across the Intelligence Community into production environments such as AWS Commercial Cloud Services (C2S).

For instance, the open-sourced NGA Scale framework allows users to customize heavy data processing schedules and tasks, while leveraging and managing a large number of cluster nodes used to process each job.

Right…. So what does that mean, exactly? Read More…

In an article on Defense One this week, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan put out a call on behalf of the Pentagon:

We want you — to get us into the cloud much faster.

We need the private sector’s help to vault DOD into the world of elastic computing and machine learning.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but AIS can definitely do that. In fact, we already have! And we have an entire cloud adoption framework and strategy specifically designed for the Department of Defense.

Navigating DoD organizations through complex cloud migrations is never an “easy” task, but the AIS DoD Cloud Adoption Framework is built on a solid foundation of compliance, best practices and lessons learned from countless successful commercial and DoD secure cloud migrations.

A few other benefits, while we’re bragging here:

  • Don’t Stop at Lift and Shift: AIS can take your existing lift and shift cloud efforts and transform them into PaaS and SaaS options for advantageous use of new Cloud technologies.
  • AIS Cloud DoD-ready Blueprints: Ensure your compliance with DoD STIGS and L2, L4 and L5 baselines from the start.
  • AIS Templated DoD Business Cases: Ensure you meet all the requirements for DoD’s internal governance processes and quickly gain ATO approval to move to the cloud
  • AIS Automation Capabilities: Reduce your costs and speed your migration of
    your systems into the cloud
  • Sustainment Operations: AIS manages your Cloud investment, leveraging new
    Cloud services increase efficiencies. Your continued success is our passion!

From the Defense One article:

This rapid adoption of cloud infrastructure and platform services is not the end, but a beginning: laying a foundation that can revolutionize how DOD deploys information technology services, develops advanced capabilities, and unleashes the power of agile computational resources and advanced data analytics.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Let’s get started.

AIS’ principal solutions architect Brent Wodicka stopped by Federal News Radio for a discussion on DevOps with  Federal Tech Talk’s John Gilroy.

They were joined by Nathen Harvey, VP of Community Development at Chef Software, and David Bock, DevOps Services Lead at Excella Consulting. Each offered a unique and practical perspective on the concept of DevOps and how it’s working for federal government IT.

You can listen to the full show over at Federal News Radio!

Yesterday AIS’ VP of Business Development Larry Katzman sat down with Federal Tech Talk’s John Gilroy on Federal News Radio to discuss how federal IT professionals can innovate in a constantly changing environment..and with a shrinking budget.

The discussion starts off with a common theme — today’s younger generation is accustomed to programming from an early age.  When they show up for work at an agency, the expect to be able to “fire up” environments to test code.

Everyone wants to unlock this spirit of innovation – but there are certain restraints. For example, you may use a system that only needs a credit card to get started.  This can result in “drunken sailor syndrome.”  In other words, you may blow your annual budget in the first week if you are not careful.

From there, the conversation moves into the issue of “Rogue IT” or “Shadow IT,” where users sign up for cloud offerings on their own and completely bypass the CIO. AIS actually offers a solution to this one: CloudCap, a system where users are granted access to thousands of enterprise class applications that can be managed. Much like “managed services,” the CloudCap system allows both the user and supervisor to know how much is spent and when.

For more information about CloudCap, click here.

You can listen to the full interview over at Federal News Radio.

 

AIS recently worked with the General Services Administration (GSA) Technology Transformation Services Division, better known as 18F.  The engagement involved working with 18F to digitize the Department of Labor’s Section 14(c) certification application process (part of the Fair Labor Standards Act). This is currently a paper-based process that 18F hoped to modernize as an intuitive, online application…and to do it using agile methodologies.

AIS was tasked with building the first version of the digital form within a 60-day period of performance – much shorter than typical federal contracts.  AIS pulled together a multi-disciplinary team comprised of user researchers, designers, and front- and back-end web developers to work closely with 18F and the Department of Labor (DOL) Product Owner. The team built the entire form with complex validation along with a registration and login and an administrative section to process the form applications. They performed multiple usability tests with actual end users, and followed 18F’s principles of working in the open using a public GitHub repository. All User Stories and discussion threads were thoroughly documented in that repository’s issues list.

AIS was able to work together with many divisions inside DOL to make this happen.  We addressed security concerns by the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and worked with the CIO office to coordinate delivery of the application and a testing and staging environment for deployment. We also set up a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment process so that multiple DOL stakeholders could stay abreast of what was happening and exercise the existing application state.  We were even able to address legal concerns with testing by external citizens by getting signed consent forms for testing and recording the sessions.

The collaboration was so successful that our client wrote their own blog post on the project, detailing exactly “how government and private industry can work together using agile methodologies to produce great results.” You can read it here. 

These types of successful, agile engagements break down the myths that software development for the government needs to take months (or even years). Government can and will move faster, and after every small win like this project, the traditional methods of building software and procuring software development are changing across the industry.  This bodes well not just for the citizens who need to interact with these digital services… but also for saving our tax dollars.

Despite what you hear on the news, not all IT projects undertaken by the federal government are unsuccessful. Granted, there are challenges to overcome, but a talented development team with a clear vision can build bigger and better things. In Washington, D.C., the capital of the federal contracting world, a small IT company called AIS is making a big difference at the FBI using the Agile approach to deliver an application that is being used by the FBI every day.

Agile software development, at its core, is more about focusing on interactions between team members, collaborating with customers, actively involving users, and responding to change quickly…and less about focusing on preparing comprehensive documentation or following processes. However, the AIS team at the FBI uses a hybrid approach that is heavy on constant interaction with the customer and the user community, without losing the significance of processes and documentation. For our application, AIS uses a team of requirements analysts, programmers, infrastructure engineers, software testers and helpdesk support to form a strong software development team to accomplish these tasks. Read More…

My decision to join AIS six years ago was a revelation. After almost seven years spent working as an embedded IT analyst for various government customers, I joined AIS to support a customer who was implementing SharePoint.  I soaked up everything I could about this (at the time) brave new world of SharePoint. I loved it.

SharePoint 2003 had been available for use in my previous office where I had initially set up out-of-the-box team sites for working groups to support a large department-wide initiative. I found it empowering to quickly set up sites, lists and libraries without any fuss (or custom coding) to get people working together. Working with my new team, I gained insight into what we could do with this tool in terms of workflow, integration and branding. It got even better when we migrated to SharePoint 2007.  We made great strides in consolidating our websites and communicating to those who were interested exactly what the tools could do in terms of collaboration and knowledge management.

This ability for a power user to quickly create a variety of new capabilities exposed a deeper customer need – easier communications with IT.  While we had all this great expertise and firepower to create and maintain IT tools and services, our core customer base did not have an easy way to quickly and reliably communicate their needs in a manner that matched their high operational tempo. It was a problem. We needed a way for our customers to quickly and easily communicate with us in order to really hear what they needed to meet their mission goals and work more effectively. Read More…

I vividly remember the iconic scene from the 1995 box office hit Apollo 13 where a team of NASA engineers gathered around a table with a collection of mishmash spaceship junk. From this collection, the team had to create a square air filter to fit in a round receptacle so that the astronauts would not asphyxiate on CO2 in space. It’s an intense, life-or-death scenario of literally making a square peg fit in a round hole, where “failure is not an option.”

Working as a business analyst for our federal government clients means that budget, time, and resource constraints almost always play major role in any development effort. This challenge requires our team to use bit of ingenuity and a mixed bag of tools to create a solution for our customers. Read More…

Throughout my schooling (two degrees in IT) and career, I’ve been taught both formally and through on-the-job coaching to always let the business problem drive the solution. Let the business strategy drive the budget. Never allow technology factors and constraints to interfere with requirements gathering. While this somewhat myopic vision can be a valuable exercise, it’s my opinion that these practices have a negative effect on Federal agencies that need to make effective use of tighter budgets.

Technology products and services have come a long way in offering compelling utility without drastic customization. At AIS, nearly all the solutions we build for our clients are based on building blocks provided by product or service companies. This approach drastically reduces the costs, risks, and time often associated to custom application development. You can find countless examples on our website of how AIS uses products (such as SharePoint and Dynamics CRM) to create custom applications for our clients.  Our developers use the products’ robust web services and object models to reduce code complexity.  Rather than developing custom implementations of commonly required features, we simply utilize the products’ existing capabilities and program our solution to call a series of actions to complete a business process.

Put succinctly, if we allow requirements elicitation to occur in a technology vacuum that does not take into account what the building blocks offer, the result is often overcomplicated and overpriced implementations. Read More…

Broken iphone Screen - Broken Web PageI was rushing out of my house on a Thursday afternoon and my phone fell squarely onto the pavement. As I picked it up and gingerly turned it over in my hands, I gasped. The screen was cracked, utterly and completely. It was a moment so steeped in idiocy that I almost laughed at myself. If you drop a phone it breaks, right? Except that it hadn’t and I’d dropped it a million times before. Maybe this was just its time to die its little death or maybe this was a particularly horrible fall. Whatever it was, it happened and it was over.

Later, at the store, my conversation with the girl replacing my phone went a little like this:

Helpful Girl: So if you’re phone is backed up, I’ll delete everything on it and get you started with a new one.

Me: It is.

HG: Ok, is it backed up to the cloud?

Me:

HG: (concern on her face) What did you do to back it up?

Me: My husband plugged it into the computer and made a copy.

HG: Ok, if you’re sure you have a copy…

Me: I am…?

Did I mention that I’m a Business Analyst for an IT company? That I used to recruit for that same company? That I regularly talk with customers about what we can do for them and how we can ease their pain points with technology-based solutions? If you’re rolling you’re eyes at me, that makes two of us. But as I’ve discovered, working in technology isn’t all about the technology, it’s about the people. Read More…