The Purple History of Intelink

When I first began talking with DIA CIO Mike Pflueger and Deputy CIO Mark Greer in the fall of 2003 about the work I’d be doing with them inside government, most of the ideas were big ones: let’s re-architect the DoDIIS enterprise, let’s find and deploy revolutionary new analytical software. One of our thoughts was a little one, but for me personally it turned out to be a most valuable project. They let me pull together a panel for the upcoming 2004 DoDIIS Conference called “Geeks and Geezers,” featuring some of the grand old names of intelligence technology. The panel was a success, and in organizing it, I spent quite a bit of time talking to those giants, or should I say listening to them. I learned an enormous amount about “the early days.” This post describes the important work of one of those fellows. 

Undercover Grrl Band Techno Rave

Friday I had an interesting meeting with Dawn Meyerriecks, who has just begun her new role as the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Acquisition and Technology. (Read the DNI’s statement on her appointment here in pdf, her bio here, and some reaction – all positive – here and here.)

Never mind what we actually were talking about, she asked me in so it isn’t appropriate to write about that. But to be honest I spent my drive home thinking about the atmospherics and significance of her holding that post in any case.  In a companion post later (“The Purple History of Intelink“) I’ll comment on the significance of her prior background in the Defense Department.

But more striking, right off the bat, is the fact that DNI Dennis Blair has an impressive number of women in high-ranking senior leadership positions. And it’s not just the number, but the particular positions they hold that I like: Dawn Meyerriecks is DDNI/A&T, Priscilla Guthrie is Assistant DNI and Chief Information Officer, Marilyn Vacca is Assistant DNI and Chief Financial Officer. Lisa Porter leads the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency IARPA (I’ve written about her before). Continue reading

Data in the Cloud from Dallas to Mars

There’s a lot going on at this week’s Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC 09); it’s a traditional launchpad for cool new stuff. I thought I’d point out several of the government-relevant announcements and technology roll-outs.

I specifically want to spotlight something called Codename Dallas, and how NASA and others have begun using it. In the keynote this morning Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie told PDC attendees (and his streaming-video audience) that a landslide of new sensors and observational systems are changing the world by recording “unimaginable volumes of data… But this data does no good unless we turn the potential into the kenetic, unless we unlock it and innovate in the realm of applications and solutions that’s wrapped around that data.”

Here’s how we’re addressing that, with a bit of step-by-step context on the overall cloud-computing platform enabling it.  The steps are: 1. Azure, 2. Pinpoint, and 3. Dallas.

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A few words about a few great Pentagon leaders

I was thinking about the Pentagon over the long weekend – appropos, given the Memorial Day celebration. But my thoughts were also sparked by viewing a 9/11 documentary, reviving all the memories of that dark day’s attacks on New York and Washington – which ultimately led to my joining the ranks of defense intelligence for a while.

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Swap Panetta and Blair: A Modest Proposal

First, a quick story from when I was working in government.

Not long after the initial establishment of a “Director of National Intelligence,” the DNI CIO held an inaugural “DNI Information Sharing Conference” in Denver in the summer of 2006. I was asked to sit on a panel about “Innovation across the Intelligence Community,” representing the Defense Intelligence Agency and sharing the stage with two counterparts, from the CIA and NSA.  Our panel chair was Mr. CJ Chapla, then the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the old Intelink Management Office, redubbed “Intelligence Community Enterprise Services,” an office now under the Office of the DNI (ODNI). CJ asked the three of us to describe briefly the goals and projects we were each working on, and in seriatim that’s what we did for 90 minutes or so.

When it was time for questions, the very first audience-member asked: “It seems that each of you are independently working on, and paying for, very similar kinds of technology projects. It would make sense to combine or rationalize the work, so why are you continuing to do it independently?” Continue reading

Gartner sees Hype Cycle for Social Software

Fact: Gartner now says that “Web 2.0 software” is falling from its “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and is on its way to a “Trough of Disillusionment.”  However, Gartner finds that wiki software has traversed that path already and is now well on its way up again to mature enterprise acceptance as a valuable productivity tool.

Analysis: Gartner’s just released their 2008 “Hype Cycle” report on Social Software – you know, stuff like public virtual worlds and Web 2.0 tools.

(I don’t know the legality of republishing the actual chart itself, so I’m not including it; I use the Microsoft enteprise license to access Gartner research.  I do note that a Web 2.0 enthusiast from the Netherlands has already posted the new Hype Cycle chart another new and related Hype Cycle chart, on “emerging technologies,” as a Flickr image here. There’s great overlap between the two reports.)

I’ve written before about the usefulness of Gartner analyses; I have to admit that Hype Cycles are my favorites. There’s something about internally debating their judgment calls as your eye travels the path, from pre-adoption “Technology Triggers,” through the bubble-esque “Peak of Inflated Expectations,” and right down into the depths of the “Trough of Disillusionment.” 

If you’re an enterprise IT guy, in a CIO or CTO role or investigating/recommending/approving new technology investments, you really wind up focusing most time on the slow ascending climb to the right of the chart, what Gartner calls the “Slope of Enlightenment.”  Just as in the old days when corporate “data-processing” chiefs lived by the mantra “No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” today’s CIO’s rely on technology that has essentially graduated to Gartner’s “Plateau of Productivity.”

Several other initial observations on the chart:the two Hype Cycle charts:

  • Newest disruptive technology trigger charted: “Erasable Paper Printing Systems,” something being researched by numerous large companies like HP and Microsoft as well as already in startup mode, but pegged by Gartner as still 10 years or more from mainstream adoption
  • Microsoft’s Surface has achieved brand dominance, as Gartner puts “Surface Computers” on the rise in visibility
  • Other key investments of Microsoft Research are validated with positive momentum ascribed to “Mobile Robots,” “Augmented Reality,” and “Green IT,” though only the last one is within 5 years of mature adoption
  • “Cloud Computing” is still on the rise, not having peaked in hype yet, though many would find that hard to believe – with its Time Magazine cover last year, it’s practically reached the point of being satired on The Daily Show
  • “Public Virtual Worlds” are right alongside “Web 2.0” in still heading down toward their disappointment trough
  • Furthest to the right – meaning most mature and enterprise-worthy – is the seemingly venerable “Basic Web Services.”

I really like these reports for a number of reasons – among other things, it looking at them together makes clear the social aspect of a number of more mature technologies (Tablet PC, Electronic Paper) which I favor, and which too often are recognized only for their technical aspects, not the socially enabling and disruptive benefits within and across organizations. 

The Gartner report also allows the blogosphere and twitterverse to step back from the moment-to-moment faddishness of the social software sector, and reflect upon the larger context of the individual technologies.  One measure of health: not a single technology earned the dubious distinction of “Obsolete Before Plateau,” a mark of shame which Gartner regularly applies to technologies that are getting hype but show no longterm promise.

Taken together, the social software space appears robust and very, very interesting.  Get a hold of the full report, it’s worth it.

Note: post updated 8/12/2008 to add references to a second Hype Cycle report on “Emerging Technologies”


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CIA 2.0: The Agency’s CIO and Change

Fact: CIO magazine is running a big story on the CIA’s Chief Information Officer Al Tarasiuk and his IT operation, and their online site is breaking it up into a four-part series running this week.  Below I analyze the series.

Analysis: By the halfway mark in the series, the magazine’s reporter Thomas Wailgum had only accomplished a fairly rote recounting of what CIA is, what its CIO does, and how both those factors have changed since the good ol’ spy days amid the challenges of a post-9/11 world.

Part Onedescribed “a business-IT alignment project like few others,” although it mainly served to introduce CIO magazine’s broad readership to the unfamiliar world of a walled-off intelligence agency, waxing on about the hyper-security at Langley.  Part Two similarly was background on the bureaucratic culture of the agency and its relegation of IT to backwater status – until 9/11 came along.

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