The Department of Labor is using cloud computing for much of its financial management, and GCE is helping the agency out.
This week, Fed Cloud Blog talked with David Lucas, chief strategy officer at GCE Federal, to get the inside scoop on what’s going on.
Lucas starts off by explaining who GCE is and what they do:
DL: GCE is a small business that serves the federal marketplace. Primarily we are known now as a software-as-a-service provider.
We provide a lot of back-office solutions for federal agencies, including financial management services, accounting systems, procurement systems, asset systems — things that help agencies run their back office.
We’ve created a suite of products and services that we offer through a cloud for their use.
FCB: In your experience, so far, is this kind of different process — the cloud process — is that working so far for the federal government? How’s it helping federal agencies?
DL: The biggest thing that, as a [SaaS] provider that we’re able to offer is, we really get agencies out of the business of all the care and feeding of their financial management systems.
These are large, enterprise-sized systems that require a whole lot of investment.
With a cloud solution, agencies no longer have to worry about the infrastructure pieces, like the hosting and the hardware — and they don’t have to worry about the other side of it because we’ve developed an end-to-end solution that is pre-configured and meets all the federal guidance for financial management systems.
So, for an agency that needs a financial management system or wants to modernized set of tools for their users, they can simply plug into a cloud. They don’t own any hardware.
They don’t own any software. Instead, they receive all of this as a service.
FCB: This cloud — or clouds — do you have just one for all federal agencies or do you have many?
DL: We have one offering that can be used by multiple federal agencies.
Right now, we just moved our latest customer, the Department of Labor, into our cloud for financial management solutions. [Labor] consists of about a dozen organizations — their Bureau of Labor Statistics and ETA and others — so there are 12 large organizations that comprise the Department. Each one needs their data segregated and their business process needs met.
So, it’s one government department, but it really breaks down into about a dozen agencies now in the cloud.
FCB: Is this a private cloud? You hear a lot of people talking about the security involved with cloud computing, but sometimes I don’t think people are familiar with private cloud versus public cloud? We know you can’t reveal any actual secrets, but maybe if you want to expand a little bit on how your cloud is secure?
DL: Security is always a concern. In fact, it’s one of the things that comes up whenever someone is looking at this business model.
People are very quickly wowed by the software that you’re offering, because they know how difficult it is, especially in financial management — our line of business — to build a system from scratch. So, we’ve taken that part away.
They’re also wowed by the return on investment when they realize they don’t have to expand their data center or worry about the running of the system every day.
The next thing that usually comes to mind is security.
There are a lot of standards already in place around financial systems that speak to the security requirements, including how you segregate data, how do you keep the integrity of the data as it goes through the system, what kind of access controls are required?
All of this is really spelled out in great detail.
There are NIST standards and FISMA standards — so, what it takes is a fair amount of effort to work with the CIO community of a federal agency to make sure that the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, but it’s something that we were able to do quite effectively with the Department of Labor.
We do have what’s called an authority to operate.
What’s nice is, as other customers take advantage of our cloud, they also take advantage of a lot of the security . . . and all the documentation around the security practices, so that it doesn’t take someone a year just to get through the security process.
Part of our cloud offering is the security compliance piece that’s already in place.