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Acquia Public Sector VP Todd Akers on Why Government Agencies Should be Leveraging Open Source [Sept. 2, 2014]

Submitted on
dinsdag, 2 september 2014
,
Washington Technology

By Michelle Davis

It’s a good time to be in the business of open source – or at least that’s what companies like Burlington, Mass.-based Acquia are broadcasting.

The company helps clients optimize digital strategies with services and solutions including open cloud hosting, developer tools and support for the open-source content management system, Drupal.

Todd Akers, vice president of the company’s public sector, told us in a recent interview that his optimism stems from the fact that the Drupal platform is enterprise ready and increasingly popular across the federal government. In fact, his team responded to 14 different RFPs and RFIs last quarter alone for Drupal from agencies.

“Today we’re seeing an acceleration in the momentum and adoption of open source, and Drupal in particular, across the federal government,” Akers said. “Whereas there may have once been a misperception that implementation of open source platforms presented a lot of roadblocks, now people are realizing their immense value.”

Acquia is currently the largest Drupal infrastructure provider in the world and serves roughly 27 billion hits, or 333TB of bandwidth, a month, according to Drupal creator and Acquia’s CTO, Dries Buytaert, in a recent blog post.

As if managing a share of government agency websites wasn’t enough, electronic commerce company Amazon Inc. recently became the newest investor in Acquia.

“This investment builds on the recent $50 million financing round that Acquia completed in May, which was led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA),” Buytaert wrote in the blog post.

The company uses open source technology to power digital transformation and improve communication and citizen engagement for a range of agencies and government sites – think – fema.gov, georgia.gov and dot.gov – and has been heavily involved in re-platforming projects for the Justice Department and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“We have well over 100 customers in the federal marketplace and more than 60 customers in state and local,” Akers said. “The fact that these agencies have chosen Acquia is testament to the fact that open source is an ideal choice for federal, state and local agencies that want to deliver and share critical information to the public.”

In our interview, Akers told us about his favorite commercial application and walked us through the open source landscape — explaining the value in open source platforms like Drupal, outlining why the technology drives digital innovation within government, and how to mitigate security concerns.

WashingtonExec: What is the largest roadblock you face when promoting open source platforms within government agencies?

Todd Akers: Well, there are still some lingering roadblocks when it comes to adopting open source platforms in the public sector. Namely, that it’s not secure enough, it’s too open, and that it’s not enterprise-grade.

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Drupal-based Defense-in-depth Strategy Protects Data [August 28, 2014]

Submitted on
donderdag, 28 augustus 2014
,
Government Computer News

By Todd Akers

In medieval times, an intricate combination of towers, drawbridges, city walls, moats and harbors protected castles from all fronts. This intricate system provided an effective and layered defense from potential threats.

As the federal government seeks ways to contain and manage massive influxes of data, IT managers are taking pages out of the medieval defense rulebook by adopting “defense-in-depth” strategies that use complex, multi-layered approaches to information security. With defense-in-depth, federal IT managers use holistic strategies to analyze and identify potential threat vectors, including internal and external threats. In the process, they can secure their defenses as if they were leading the king’s protection forces.

Federal IT managers are practicing defense-in-depth while using open source software like Drupal for web development and content management. In fact, hundreds of federal sites – all of which demand a high level of security – are powered by Drupal.

Drupal offers a firm foundation for the strategy, specifically because it uses open source software that enjoys the support of a global community. This includes tens of thousands of users who regularly engage in peer reviews and vulnerability scanning, resulting in increased reliability and strengthening of core APIs and mitigation of common vulnerabilities. Further, the software is backed by a global team of some of the world’s leading web security experts who are always on-call and available to assess, evaluate and address issues.

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Inside Los Angeles’ move to Drupal with Acquia’s Todd Akers [August 26, 2014]

Submitted on
dinsdag, 26 augustus 2014
,
StateScoop

By David Stegon

The city of Los Angeles became the latest public sector organization to announce it is moving a number of its public-facing websites to the Drupal enterprise web content management system.

Todd Akers, the vice president of public sector for Acquia, the Massachusetts-based company that will build, manage and govern the Los Angeles Web pages using its Cloud Site Factory, joined StateScoop Radio to discuss the project and how more and more state and local governments are going to open source platforms like Drupal.

Akers also discussed the federal government’s recently released Digital Services Playbook, which offers 13 steps or “plays” that the government can take to increase digital services and will also likely be adopted – on some scale – by state and local organizations going forward as well.

As for the Los Angeles project, Akers said the city plans to migrate more than 20 separate websites to Drupal, the leading enterprise web content management system. Through Acquia’s Enablement Program, the city’s Information Technology Agency is working closely with the company during the initial migration of three of the its most visited sites: lacity.org, lacityview.org and ladot.lacity.org, helping ITA develop its Drupal expertise to lead the remaining migrations. The city joins the Los Angeles Public Library, the LA Philharmonic, Discover Los Angeles and thousands more that rely on Drupal.

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Los Angeles Undertakes Massive Website Relaunch with Drupal [August 21, 2014]

Submitted on
donderdag, 21 augustus 2014
,
Government Technology

By Jason Shueh

On Thursday, Aug. 21, the city of Los Angeles announced plans to replace its city-run websites with a set of open sourced alternatives.

Ted Ross, the city’s assistant general manager for technology solutions, confirmed the deal brokered between Acquia, the tech firm known for its Drupal content management system, and the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency (ITA), which is coordinating the project. The announcement follows nearly a year of research and talks with Acquia and ends the city's partnership with Oracle and its legacy CMS “Stellent.”

There are more than 20 websites to relaunch through the Drupal overhaul, with the most visited sites — the city’s home page, public television channel, and its transportation department — slated for first releases. The city sites join the Los Angeles Public Library, the LA Philharmonic and the Visit Los Angeles tourism site, all of which are already on Drupal.

No specific dates were given for estimated relaunches, and in email, Ross said the city did not wish to say more about the development until the first sites were closer to completion.

However, Todd Akers, Acquia's vice president of public sector development, said the collaboration was a huge win for company that now has the state of New York, the city of San Francisco and a variety of federal agencies on the open sourced Drupal platform.

Open Data is Giving Power to the People [July 22, 2014]

Submitted on
dinsdag, 22 juli 2014
,
Engaging Cities

By Tim Marsh, Acquia

In the 1960’s, the phrase “power to the people” became a popular slogan for citizens who wanted their voices to be heard by the government. It took a few decades, but the open data initiatives being undertaken in communities across the United States have finally made that slogan into a reality.

Open data is information that federal, state and local agencies have made available to citizens in the hopes of creating a well functioning, completely transparent government. Agencies allow pertinent data – the salaries of federal and state workers, for example, or regional property tax records – to be accessible, shared and used by anyone. This results in citizens having unprecedented insight into how their government agencies work, and can improve social and economic value through dissemination of information.

Open data also gives power to the people in another way – the ability to directly interact with the government in real-time.

Historically, citizens have only infrequently influenced government. They may vote every couple of years, or go downtown or online to pay their county taxpayer, and so on.

Open data changes these scenarios completely. Citizens in metro areas that are striving for open data policies now have immediate access to a wealth of information, which they can immediately influence.

For example, OpenOakland is providing opportunities for residents of the California city to contribute to things like the Oakland Wiki, a “site all about Oakland, by Oaklanders,” as well as information about housing projects, early childhood education, and the city budget. The effort is empowering the people of Oakland to help shape the future of their city.

Citizens are only part of a successful open data initiative; in order to make open data initiatives work, municipalities themselves need to do their parts. Many cities across the U.S. have already implemented open data mandates that clearly articulate which data must be made open, and how it can be accessed. Thus, local agencies must be able to effectively process and make data accessible, along with accepting and managing citizens’ input.

To do that, they need technology that runs on systems they already have in place (like the Drupal content management system, which many agencies use for their data), and will help them handle large amounts of data in very agile ways. The best option for many is a combination of open source technology, which works well in virtually any environment, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which benefits from the flexibility of the cloud.

This is why Acquia and Carahsoft have partnered with NuCivic to launch NuCivic Data, the first open source SaaS open data management solution. NuCivic Data provides federal, state and local agencies with the technology backbone to host and manage data, visualize it, put it online, and make it immediately accessible, all while combining the best aspects of SaaS and open source.

Solutions like NuCivic Data help agencies meet open data mandates and goals, while allowing citizens to gain insight and provide input into those agencies. They are the tools that will help create a new form of government – one that is extremely open, highly collaborative, and powered by the people.

Open Data is Transforming Governments - and the Areas They Serve [July 11, 2014]

Submitted on
Vrijdag, 11 juli 2014
,
StateScoop

By Tim Marsh

Austin, Honolulu, Chicago, and Los Angeles are all very different in terms of geography, climate, and population. But there’s one thing that each of these cities has in common: Each is a member of the growing list of American cities with open data policies.

These areas, along with others, have set forth mandates that require government data to be open and available to citizens. Many cities have used open source technology to build portals that provide easy access to a wide swath of data from information about city finances to maps of buildings and greenways. Others are benefitting from civic organizations like OpenOakland, which is striving to provide Oakland, Calif., residents with access to a variety of data, including information on city budgets, public meetings and more.

This commitment to open data is transforming governments — but, more importantly, it’s also transforming the areas they serve.

Governments Armed with Agility

Open data further pronounces the need for agility. Agencies must be able to store large amounts of data, but they must also be able to make that data available in near real-time. For example, zoning maps must be kept up-to-date and readily available so that prospective developers have the information they need when they need it. Likewise, citizens may wish to have access to the previous day’s police reports or current information pertaining to voting districts, which can often change. This does not take into account the fact that, since citizens now have access to government data, they also have the ability to request changes to it at their leisure.

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Direct from the White House: APIs are Key to Extending Platforms [May 20, 2014]

Submitted on
dinsdag, 20 mei 2014
,
OpenSource.com

By Jason Hibbets

To a technology director at the White House, the State of the Union is like the Superbowl. While the world is watching the President of the United States deliver an address to the nation, Leigh Heyman and his team are managing the media technology behind the scenes to create an enhanced and interactive experience for the viewers. How many of you watched the State of the Union on YouTube this year?

As the Director of New Media Technologies at the Executive Office of the President, Heyman uses strong leadership to chart new technical territory for the White House. If you ever get to meet him in person, the first thing that will likely grab your attention is the presidential lapel pin on his suit. It's a little intimidating, but his broad smile and confident handshake tell the whole story.

It's one of confidence and openness, and it's what struck me when I met Heyman for the first time at the Palmetto Open Source Conference in Columbia, South Carolina. He was presenting a talk about We The People, the White House online petition platform. It is one of many tech projects with a nod towards a more open and transparent government that Heyman and his team have led, including WhiteHouse.gov which runs on Drupal and various White House hackathons held at the White House itself.

Though no less extraordinary, it's somewhat old news that the White House has been using open source technologies in it's efforts. At DrupalCon San Francisco, the White House revealed their first contributions to Drupal. What's exciting now is they are consistently giving back to open source projects and writing web APIs.

This marks a new era for the government's relationship with open source, and is due in part to the work the New Media Technologies team does to promote a more transparent, collaborative, and participatory government.

In this interview, Leigh Heyman gives me some of the backstory on how he came to work for the Executive Office of the President and some fun facts about the famous Death Star Petition. He also discusses recent new media projects at the White House, shedding light on how they might live beyond the current administration and forge a new relationship with US citizens.

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Transit Strike Shows Power of Drupal, Cloud Computing [May 16, 2014]

Submitted on
Vrijdag, 16 mei 2014
,
StateScoop

In October, Bay Area Rapid Transit, which provides public transportation to the city of San Francisco, found itself in a public labor dispute, which culminated in a four-day strike that halted transportation services.

With nearly 400,000 daily riders — San Franciscans who relied on the system for transportation — the department’s website found itself with 10 times its normal traffic as users looked for information on when trains would run again.

The increase in Web traffic normally would have shut the site down, but just weeks before, the transit system — affectionately known as BART — moved its Web operations to Drupal, hosted inside Acquia’s cloud.

“Drupal allowed them the space to innovate and find better ways to communicate with their users,” Todd Akers, vice president of public sector for Acquia, told StateScoop. “In addition, hosting on Acquia Cloud allowed them to reduce costs by 70 percent and gave them the elasticity needed to handle times of higher demand.”

Akers pointed to a similar situation Acquia worked on with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority in October 2012. When Hurricane Sandy caused outages throughout the northeast, the department’s Web operations were able to keep running – keeping citizens informed – during times of crisis when communication is needed most.

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Australian Government Likely to Standardise on Drupal [May 9, 2014]

Submitted on
Vrijdag, 9 mei 2014
,
Computerworld

By Rohan Pearce

AGIMO wants Drupal delivered from the cloud to be the standard CMS

The federal government is eyeing the introduction of a government-wide content-management system. The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has indicated its preference is to use the open-source Drupal Web platform and to have the CMS delivered as a cloud service.

"The Government Content Management System (GovCMS) is envisaged as an important service offering for Australian Commonwealth Government agencies," the Australian government CTO, John Sheridan, wrote in a blog entry.

"GovCMS is intended to support more effective web channel delivery functions within Government, and enable agencies to redirect effort from non-core transactional activities, towards higher-value activities that are more aligned with core agency missions," a draft statement of requirements issued by AGIMO states.

An analysis by AGIMO found that between 182 and 450 websites could be transitioned to GovCMS over four years. The use of an open source solution means that Drupal modules could be shared between public sector agencies and the community, the draft states.

A transition to GovCMS will begin with Australia.gov.au and Finance.gov.au, the document states. The target go-live date is September this year.

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FedRAMP OnRamp Seeks to Ease Path to Secure Government Clouds [March 14, 2014]

Submitted on
Vrijdag, 14 maart 2014
,
Data Center Knowledge

By Rich Miller

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ordering a pizza over the Internet is easy. Provisioning compliant cloud services for federal government agencies is hard.

Steve O’Keeffe would like to change that. O’Keeffe is the founder of MeriTalk, a public/private partnership focused on improving government IT, which has launched a new tool to help federal agencies find cloud providers that have received security certifications under The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP).

The FedRAMP OnRamp was launched Thursday at the Data Center Brainstorm, a conference at the Newseum that brought together IT managers from federal agencies, along with representatives of leading vendors and service providers to the government sector.

“The challenge with FedRAMP is that it hasn’t been particularly transparent until now,” said O’Keeffe. “There are different flavors of FedRAMP, and they’re all about risk management.”

Cloud First, But Only With FedRAMP

FedRAMP is designed to centralize the process of certifying vendors to offer cloud computing services that meet the strict security requirements of federal agencies. Cloud providers must gain FedRAMP certification to provide cloud services to federal agencies. Without FedRAMP, service providers would need to individually certify cloud installations at each agency they serve.

That would be an expensive undertaking. MeriTalk estimates the average cost for the government to perform a FedRAMP cloud security certification at $250,000. Using FedRAMP has already saved service providers more than $37.5 million in certification costs, according to estimates from MeriTalk and the General Services Administration.

That doesn’t mean that it’s always user-friendly. One of the goals of the FedRAMP OnRamp is to provide quick access to information about which companies have gained certification as Cloud Service Providers. That number currently stands at 14: AINS, Inc., Akamai, Amazon, AT&T, Autonomic Resources, CGI, Concurrent Technologies, HP, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Oracle, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Another 15 cloud providers are currently in the FedRAMP approval process, including Acquia Inc., CA Technologies, CenturyLink Technology Solutions, Clear Government Solutions (CGS), Economic Systems, Fiberlink, HP, Layered Tech Government Solutions, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SecureKey Technologies Inc., Verizon Terremark, Virtustream, and VMware.

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