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Welcome and Opening Remarks
NIST Joint Cloud and Big Data Workshop

NIST Headquarters, Gaithersburg, MD
January 15, 2013
Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director

I'm particularly excited about this workshop for a couple of reasons. But before that, let me thank those that helped make this possible.

There's the Cloud Computing and Big Data teams here at NIST, for all of their efforts that have made this possible. Particularly, I'd like to give a shout out to a former member of the team, Dawn Leaf. Dawn is going to be here, if she is not here already. Dawn, as many of you know, led our cloud effort until quite recently. She's now Deputy CIO at the Department of Labor. But now Chris Greer—Chris, where are you? I just saw him in the front. Chris is our capable leader of this critical program at NIST.

It's also my special pleasure to recognize our next speaker who will be coming up shortly, the Chief Information Officer for the United States, Steve VanRoekel. Steve, it's always great to have you back at NIST.

I think you're in for a very exciting and dynamic workshop. I've been looking at the program, and some of the speakers are simply the best in the area, and I think it's going to be very stimulating. I actually just wanted to kick off this morning with just a couple of observations, starting with the cloud program.

As many of you know, cloud is happening. The notion of network-centric computing is not new; the branding and focus and adoption is more recent. And at NIST, this really received a boost when Steve's predecessor, Vivek Kundra, announced the government's Cloud First policy. And NIST was asked, as it often is, to support the adoption of cloud by federal agencies. That actually had two elements, and it's important to keep that in mind. One was a short-term element dealing with the federal CIO community and trying to leverage certification and CNA authorities and the FedRamp, and many of you know a lot about that.

But there was a long-term program that Dawn was leading and now Chris has, which was after how do we drive and shape this technology as the adoption unfolds? The notion behind this was to commence what I call the structured dialog—a dialog between those that are shaping the technology and those that are trying to use it in the federal government. And that effort is well under way. In fact, there's a lot to celebrate. Through that effort, there is a shared and common definition of what cloud computing is; there's a reference architecture and a taxonomy for talking and thinking about cloud computing. There's a discussion of use cases from the federal CIO community, talking about typical cases for government computing and how that would map onto cloud. And based on that, there's a standards and technology road map. So in other words, how do we move forward, what are our collective priorities? And this is going to remain--as all good roadmaps are--a working document, something we continue to focus on and use.

We're going to continue to need your help, helping define how government business use cases map onto this new technology, and how do we facilitate this technology adoption?

But one of the interesting things as we've focused on cloud, is that inevitably, the discussion gets broader. Network-centric computation and IT naturally lead you to a broader discussion about those things that are attached to the network and what's moving through the network and how it's being used. And in particular, two areas have really emerged as key cousins, if you will, of the cloud computing effort. One of them is certainly mobility and the wide collection, the heterogeneous collection, of technologies that now use this infrastructure. And the other one is the data. Big data.

I think that this progression now leads very naturally both to Steve's government-wide strategy for the federal government—it has also broadened—but in particular, it raises the notion that's the subject of today's workshop, which is to explore one of the critical intersections between cloud computing and big data.

Cloud is a multiplier when it's combined with other technologies, and it frees the users from the constraints of location and catalyzing data-driven inspiration for discovery. And one of the goals of this forum is to explore these multipliers at the intersection between big data and cloud.

Now, big data, unlike cloud, doesn't have a common definition yet. We haven't yet agreed as a community what exactly we mean by big data. But whatever it is, it's here. And, and that's clear. I mean, a recently released IDC digital universe study sponsored by EMC estimates that 2.8 zettabytes of data were created and replicated in 2012. And thank goodness for the IT community. That's two times 10 to the 21st power. So I think this community and astronomers are the only ones who are really giving the SI prefixes their money's worth.

And like cloud, big data is going to change everything. We are really looking at a new paradigm, a place of data primacy where everything starts with consideration of the data rather than consideration of the technology. This is a real shift from the way we've historically thought about this. You know, "given this technology, we could ...," you know, talk about a problem, to "given this data, we could ...," and we've moved to designing the technologies around the data—in some cases, define the problems around the data.

This is already here; it's already here at NIST. Like in many of your organizations, you're already dealing with issues of big data. There's a lot of suggested definitions about the key attributes of big data. Many of them include notions of volume, velocity, and complexity. And at NIST, we see elements of all three of these.

Work on big data in volume includes work on high-volume DNA sequencing data. We've been working on the velocity end, looking at the integration of streaming video, audio, and sensor data, particularly to support national security applications. And complexity of data—and you're going to hear more about this shortly—looking at the materials data, the data that supports advance and high-performance materials discovery and use. And Cyrus Wadia from OSTP is actually going to be talking to you briefly about this, and these are examples already within NIST of where big data is shaping our work in all of our mission areas.

So, what I'd like to do today is--aside from greeting you—is leave you with just a quick challenge. This workshop, by combining these two major elements, opens up a window of opportunity, and I'd like you to try and take advantage of that opportunity.

I think there are two natural questions that arise. One of them has to do with what new things happen at the intersection between cloud and big data? This is a rare opportunity to bring together what are often two different communities to look at the intersections between these two worlds. And I'd like you to explore that through this workshop. Help us identify what are going to be the things that shape big data and cloud going forward? What are going to be the things that challenge us? What things are going to break? And what new opportunities are going to open?

As the director of NIST, this information's really important because it helps shape the programs that we build here. But I'd also like you to think about how do we work together? Not just about the technology, but about the fact that this is a shared, community-based effort. And thinking about what we've done in cloud and what we're doing in big data, I'd like you to think about how do we create the vibrant, collaborative atmosphere; the common set of goals, definitions, taxonomies, whatever we need, so that we can effectively work together?

One of the things I've learned from cloud is that we're already seeing a dramatic impact in cloud because the collaboration happened early, and this has now become the focal point, not just within the United States, but around the world. These discussions, in fact, are shaping the adoption and use of cloud all around the planet. And that's sort of the tyranny of the first draft--that's what happens when you roll up your sleeves and move quickly to a new area. And I think we have the same opportunity here in big data, and I think the synergy between these two communities, in fact, will lead to really important things.

I'd like to thank you all for coming. If there's anything we can do as hosts to make your stay here more enjoyable, please let us know. And I wish you a very, very productive workshop. Thank you.