Recovery Board testing accountability tools in the cloud

Thursday - 10/27/2011, 5:23am EDT

Interview with Shawn Kingsberry, CIO, RAT Board

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va.-- The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board had so much success moving Recovery.gov to the cloud, it is looking there again to give agencies a new set of accountability tools.

Shawn Kingsberry, the board's chief information officer and assistant director for technology, said about four agencies are testing a new suite of data-analysis software to ensure Recovery Act funds are not being subject to waste, fraud or abuse.

Shawn Kingsberry, CIO of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board

"We are looking at how we can leverage virtualization and cloud technology to extend how we deliver services into the future," Kingsberry said during an interview with Federal News Radio during the 21st annual Executive Leadership Conference sponsored by ACT/IAC. "As we start to get into virtualization and virtualized desktop infrastructure and those types of things, we have some pilots going on and I think they will be really interesting and help the federal government as a whole."

Testing phase

The Recovery Board is working with several agencies to test out these accountability tools in the cloud. The tools include data- analysis software that can detect data anomalies on contracts, grants and loans issued with stimulus funding.

Agencies submit award or proposed award data to the board. The board then uses these tools to find potential issues with the vendor and passes that information back to the awarding agency. The agency can then decide what steps to take next.

Kingsberry said agencies can and should take a pause to make sure the funds are not falling victim to waste, fraud or abuse.

"I think that is big driver and gives agencies a reason to pause," he said. "The pause doesn't necessarily mean they will not release the funds, but agencies now have the tools to think about what it actually means before or interrupt any type of fraud in flight."

Following familiar path

The Recovery Board's experience with putting software in the cloud has been successful. It first moved its site to the public cloud in April 2010.

Kingsberry said the board saved $750,000 by using Amazon Web Services and moved that money into mission needs to detect waste, fraud and abuse.

"We learned key services can move to the cloud, and you can gain key performance and security functions," he said. "We have a repeatable process when you look at moving Recovery.gov to the cloud. We started off building our infrastructure in a Savvis datacenter and we built a baseline of configuration, and the expected security and performance baselines."

With the audit tools, the board will follow a similar path — starting small in the board's own data center to create the baseline and then moving it to the cloud, Kingsberry said.

"Based on that baseline we will understand what it means to scale up, what security means, how we begin to leverage elasticity of cloud to deliver performance to unknown demand," he said.

The mix of small, medium and large agencies in the pilot now are already giving the board positive feedback, Kingsberry added. He said more results should be ready in a few months, and then the board can decide how to expand the use of the tools.

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