In an exclusive interview with Dr. Greg Gardner, Chief Architect, Defense and Intel Solutions, NetApp, we talked about some of the parallels that exist between the communications of the 19th century and those we are experiencing today in the Information Age. Dr. Gardner also shared his insights into the explosive data growth that is occurring now and how agencies can best manage it in today’s world.

In 1994, Dr. Gardner held the fourth internet address as a student at the Naval War College. By the following year, there were an astounding 16 million people with internet addresses. Today, there are almost 4 billion people with internet addresses, meaning almost half the world’s population is online. Dr. Gardner believes “data has become the lifeblood of both military and civilian agencies.” He said, “It flows through our systems and enables better decision making, speeds up processes, allows for innovation and optimizes how we do business. In the past, we moved people. Now we move data.”

Gardner believes that the implications are as massive as the data growth is and digital transformation has to be top of mind for military leaders, requiring a change in mindset. He said this is no easy feat as “data isn’t locked behind firewalls the way it used to be.” He continued, “it’s distributed, dynamic, and diverse.  It’s on premise and in multiple cloud locations.” Gardner added, “You have to know where data is, where it’s coming from, and if there’s a single source of truth to it. You have to ask yourself how accurate it is. To make things more complicated, data exists in many forms – we have structured data, unstructured data, machine learning data, and streaming data. It’s really difficult to manage everything. To thrive in this environment, a holistic approach to data management must take place.”

Dr. Gardner shared his insights with us into the five tenets of data management needed to thrive in today’s information age, outlined below:

  • Protection – Data protection is key for federal agencies, and operational and intelligence related data must be safeguarded across its entire lifecycle, regardless of its location or classification.
  • Simplicity – Data must flow easily and seamlessly between operational and intelligence environments in order to speed decision-making, facilitate deep learning and provide Defense and Intelligence more time and resources to invest in higher-value work. Data should be retained and move through environments easily in order to be able to orchestrate and run analytics on it in an automated fashion.
  • Openness – By leveraging an extensive network of sources, both within the military and from open- source media, military users can build innovative new services and solutions. Further, users will find they have more creative and innovative courses of action as well as the freedom to choose what works best for their particular operational roles. Agencies should be open to new solutions and different options about where data comes from
  • Enablement – Leaders must enable and empower users, analysts and decision makers to have confidence to use data going into the future and focus on data they can rely upon to make decisions that support the mission.
  • Support – Support services are key if data is going to be the key to how we do business today and in the future. Cloud enablement, infrastructure performance, and data migration tools are all critical pieces of this.


You can learn more about how NetApp can help support your federal data management needs here.