Using the Cloud to Reach the Crowds?

Jan 29, 2013

Doug Bourgeois, Vice President, Federal Chief Cloud Executive at VMware, recently authored a blog post where he discussed the idea of using crowdsourcing to cost effectively solve government’s challenges.

Bourgeois specifically discussed “the confluence of the ‘Crowd’” and how the Cloud is creating a powerful new software development model for the public sector.

In an effort to support this vision, VMware and EMC are currently forming a new organization called the Pivotal Initiative to address this issue.

GTSI is assisting this effort by providing a proof of concept in our labs that will be used as a basis for creating a solution for the Pivotal Initiative, which involves many players to bring it to life.

One of the key players is Top Coder, which is community of more than 445,000 software developers, algorithmists, and digital designers that compete in crowd sourcing initiatives.  The community is accessed via the TopCoder Platform, which is, according to Top Coder, the most advanced and sophisticated productivity and innovation platform in the world.

Essentially, this community develops solutions based on problems in the open market, which is similar to the where government challenges industry to solve specific problems for a financial reward.

VMware’s Director, Data Director and Application Performance Manager products from its vFabric suite will be used extensively in the Pivotal Initiative.  In a nutshell, these products are used for rapidly deploying and managing application development environments (Apps, Databases, Spring Framework) for software dev and test environments.

We are actually using these products in the GTSI lab, running on the Cisco UCS platform, to develop a proof of concept to see if this solution provides a Cloud-based location for Top Coder members to test and develop software solutions in a crowdsourcing model.  Once validated, it is intended to be included in the Pivotal Initiative.

Why is this important?  As Bourgeois actually highlighted in his recent blog post, which highlighted three key reasons why this effort matters:

  • First and foremost, government budgets continue to shrink or remain flat. Governments are continually being asked to “do more with less.” Crowdsourcing software development in the Cloud will offer a lower-cost alternative to current public sector software development models.
  • Second, governments are seeking to be more innovative. Mobile, social, and other consumer technologies have set user expectations high and the Government is responding. For example, the Whitehouse’s Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a Digital Government Strategy which directs federal agencies to “innovate with less” using a “shared platform” approach to develop and deliver digital services. Crowdsourcing and the Cloud are essential to meeting these directives.
  • In the midst of an aging and retiring workforce, the public sector faces challenges recruiting and retaining new talent. This is partly because a new generation of workers expects to be able to live and work wherever they want. For them work is something you do, not a place you go to.  Further, many within this new generation of workers (aka. Generation Flex) do not want to work for a corporation or government organization.  Instead they prefer to work independently, with little oversight.  They want the flexibility to pick and choose what they work on.  Crowdsourcing software development addresses these new generation work expectations.

We will be providing ongoing updates on this unique effort in the coming weeks — so please stay tuned.  And, in the meantime, we welcome any thoughts and feedback you may have.