3 Former Federal CIOs Join Equinix Government Advisory Board

Prominent experts Deborah Diaz, Donna Hansen, Cindy Moran to advise on IT modernization initiatives

David Peed

As the world becomes increasingly digital, data-driven and interconnected, IT strategies are changing across every industry and the public sector is no exception. Government IT leaders recognize the power of IT modernization to give them the agility, speed, performance and resilience they need to operate in today’s data-drenched environment while staying on budget. This recognition is driving federal agencies to explore IT innovation in areas such as digital government, artificial intelligence (AI) and data center optimization. To get there faster, agencies are increasingly relying on outside expertise to tap into private sector advancements. At the same time, private sector companies, such as Equinix, need guidance from government IT leaders to align solutions with government needs and requirements. Cross-sector partnerships like this one can empower federal agencies to succeed and operate at the speed of mission.

Introducing the Equinix Government Advisory Board

As federal agencies look ahead to next year and beyond, Equinix is looking ahead as well. We are pleased to announce the launch of our Equinix Government Advisory Board and the addition of three prominent Federal IT experts – Deborah Diaz, Donna Hansen and Cindy Moran. Each of these leaders has had an expansive career shaping Federal IT strategies and brings a wealth of experience that will enrich the strategic direction of our product and service offerings. With their expertise and knowledge, the advisory board will provide insights to Equinix Government Solutions on critical government technology initiatives. They will also guide our thinking and approach on how to best help government agencies succeed in building more efficient and effective IT infrastructures that support today’s missions and tomorrow’s ambitions.

Deborah Diaz – driving change through open data and innovation

Deborah Diaz has over 30 years of C-level public and private sector experience providing strategic advisory services and managing complex technology infrastructure and cyber programs. Formerly the Chief Technology Officer and Deputy CIO of NASA, she has also held senior roles at other Federal agencies such as CIO for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security and Deputy CIO at the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO).  Her work at the US Department of State, USAID, and the World Bank introduced critical technology solutions and increased private sector investments for Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. As an experienced executive who managed complex critical National assets, she is recognized as a top change agent, providing innovative solutions and establishing strong partnerships between industry and government. For example, she developed partnerships with Google, Microsoft and Amazon to cultivate greater innovation test beds. Deborah spearheaded several ground breaking initiatives during her Federal tenure such as creating the first e-Government services (USA.gov and USA Services), the largest global hackathon (International Space Apps Challenge), the digital presence for the Department of Homeland Security, NASA’s Datanauts, Women in Data and NASA’s Data Management strategy. She also guided new technology investments and applications for NASA such as 3D printing in space, artificial intelligence pilots and quantum computing data analytics. During a prior interview with Women in Technology, she noted that innovation is often “not a matter of research or discovery but understanding the industry and critical timing of emerging technologies to really impact the future.”i

One area where Deborah sees Equinix playing a role is in marrying artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to the massive volumes of data the Federal Government needs to access, process and analyze to gain valuable insights. Federal agencies may be flooded in data, but it is of limited value until they can access and codify that data to make better decisions, implement evidence-based authenticity and deliver improved services.

According to Deborah, “NASA’s ‘oil’ was the data that it provides to the public. AI and machine learning can help accelerate innovation with highly targeted messaging, automation or process improvement. Artificial intelligence will empower and position federal agencies to take advantage of their own data for greater efficiency and insight. Machine learning can help agencies model their data for differentiation and success at greater speeds. We are at a new level of sophistication when it comes to sharing data for better outcomes. Law enforcement is a good example of this. Whether it’s at the federal or state level, you can have the best intelligence in the world, but, unless it’s appropriately shared and analyzed, it can become stovepiped.ii When it’s done right, sharing data and applying state of the art analytics using AI and ML can enable law enforcement agencies to pinpoint patterns for faster response and deterrence.”

Self-healing, software defined networks and secure cloud access are critical to our future. To be aligned with a company that has this same vision and can enable data transformation is what really attracted me to Equinix. Deborah Diaz

 

“I wanted to work with a company that thought outside the box and was wired for the future. Equinix is in a really good position to utilize their global interconnect industry experience and technical expertise to positively impact how government agencies can leverage software-defined services and multi-cloud access going forward.”

Deborah also commented that the government is at a nexus point where the importance of cloud and data protection are coming together with advances in AI, ML and other technologies. Deborah said, “Self-healing, software defined networks and secure cloud access are critical to our future. To be aligned with a company that has this same vision and can enable data transformation is what really attracted me to Equinix.”

Donna Hansen – moving at the speed of mission with interconnection

Donna Hansen has over 30 years of public and private sector experience, culminating in senior roles with the CIA and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). As the CIO of NRO, she worked with her peers to ensure that the NRO Future Collection Architecture took optimal advantage of game-changing IT and data analytic capabilities. Managing a multi-agency government and contractor workforce and overseeing hundreds of millions of dollars in IT resources, Donna led the NRO toward achieving its Future Architecture goals of increased affordability, resiliency, security, timeliness and agility by reducing the risk of insider threat, strengthening cybersecurity and initiating the transition to the intelligence community (IC) Information Technology Enterprise (ITE). During her tenure with the NRO, she also successfully transitioned the organization to a horizontal, shared IT services paradigm leveraging cloud technologies. One example was the transformational initiative to stream NRO-collected imagery to the IC ITE cloud, which created opportunities for the IC and military to fully utilize the nation’s premier overhead reconnaissance capabilities. She is the recipient of multiple IC and CIA awards, including the CIA Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal and NRO Gold Medal. Prior to her CIA and NRO roles, Donna provided engineering and IT support to the foreign affairs, military and intelligence communities.

Donna shared her perspective on IT for the federal government, “Federal agencies live and breathe information – data that gets turned into actionable insights. That’s not easy when data is scattered all over the globe. Knowing where the right data is so it can be securely connected with other data for analysis is a real challenge. With a carrier-neutral platform and private, fast connectivity to network carriers, cloud providers and data all over the globe, Equinix can really help agencies connect the dots between disparate data sources without vendor lock in. By leveraging Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) best practices, agencies can get data from where it’s being collected to where it needs to be analyzed instantly. Private connections across the network fabric reduce the attack surface area while enabling secure analysis at scale. With this type of architecture, you get increased affordability, resiliency, timeliness and agility to move at the speed of mission. That gives the government the opportunity to try one thing today and pivot tomorrow without having a lot of sunk costs.”

Cindy Moran – harnessing the power of flexible networks

Cindy Moran is a highly regarded expert in the federal information and communication networks space. With nearly 30 years of experience managing communications networks for military and defense agencies, Cindy also held senior roles such as Director of Network Services, Deputy CIO and Vice Director for Strategic Planning for the Defense Information System Agency (DISA). She is currently the President and Managing Partner of Pikes Way LLC, an IT consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and management in the telecommunications sector. In her previous roles, she was responsible for systems management of Federal terrestrial and satellite communications networks supporting critical applications up to and including Presidential communications with other nations. During her tenure with the Federal government, she also served as the technical lead on several interagency and international telecommunications working groups and has been a strong proponent for women in STEM.

At a TechNet Asia-Pacific conference, Cindy offered this perspective on network performance and flexibility, “We as a culture have designed and built our networks to protect our information and our data since we started building networks. We’ve never built them to be optimal from a network perspective. With [as much] growth and change as we’ve got going [on], we no longer have that luxury.”iii

Virtualization comes to mind when reflecting on Cindy’s viewpoint on network design. Virtualization technologies, which drove the growth of cloud, are also now being widely employed to deliver network functions as a software service. Similar to the on-demand agility of cloud services, network functions virtualization (NFV) can enable agencies to implement the networks services they need in minutes. The benefits of NFV are similar to the virtualization of other IT functions – reduced CAPEX, greater agility for scaling up or down as needed, faster time to deploy new applications or services, and the ability to tap into multiple clouds, applications, partners and ecosystems on demand. In support of virtual networking infrastructures, Equinix recently announced Network Edge, which, in combination with the software-defined interconnection of Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™), enables federal IT organizations to establish virtual connections to networks and clouds within minutes.

We are excited to welcome these three pillars of the government technology community as members of the Equinix Government Advisory Board. We look forward to working with them to advance our strategies to support federal agencies as they master today’s IT modernization initiatives and architect their best future.

Learn more about enabling an interconnected government.

 

[i] Women in Technology (WIT), Deborah Diaz profile, 2019.

[ii] Wikipedia, Stove piping is a metaphorical term alluding to a stovepipe’s function as an isolated vertical conduit. It alludes to ways in which raw intelligence information may be presented without proper context due to the specialized nature, or security requirements, of a particular intelligence collection technology. It also has limited focus and data is not easily shared.

[iii] AFCEA SIGNAL, Network Security vs. Performance, Nov 2016.