The GEOINT Symposium, hosted and produced by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) is the nation’s largest gathering of industry, academia, and government to include defense, intelligence and homeland security communities. Each year, the event provides attendees a unique opportunity to learn from leading experts, share best practices, and uncover the latest developments from government, military and private-sector leaders. We recently had a chance to sit down with Larry Wadsworth, Account Manager for the Defense and Intelligence Communities at NetApp and Greg Jacobson, Director Program Capture and System Integrators at NetApp who both had the opportunity to attend this years show for insights into the event. Here’s what they had to say:

GovDataDownload (GDD): You’ve just come back from GEOINT 2017. Why is this event so important for the defense, intelligence and homeland security communities?

Larry Wadsworth (LW):  GEOINT is an invaluable event to everyone in the geospatial- intelligence community. The industry is going through a revolutionary change with cloud adoption and migration taking center stage for all stakeholders involved. I believe the only way we can be successful in cloud adoption is for government leaders and industry to come together through events like GEOINT and speak with us about their vision for the future. It’s incredibly important for the industry to hear directly from federal leaders about how we can help them meet their mission.

Greg Jacobson (GJ): I fully agree with Larry that this show gives that level of access to federal leaders and opportunity to hear what’s going on in the industry. To say this is a disruptive time is an understatement. We are in a really challenging environment right now as we face pressures from the partner community who is being challenged with helping their customers meet their mission while moving as many things to the cloud as quickly as possible. We of course have to be respectful of the mission but the challenge comes with doing all of these things within such a short period of time, so it is definitely a balancing act.

GDD: What were some of the major topics of discussion at the event? Did you have the opportunity to attend any keynote or breakout sessions?

LW: I had the opportunity to attend Robert Cardillo – the Director of the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency (NGA)’s keynote and listened into several government and civilian panel discussions. The key takeaways were really around the technology landscape and the speed at which it’s accelerating as something both government and industry have to grapple with. The pace of technological changes taking place makes it harder for the government to integrate seamlessly, as they try to squeeze in implementation into tighter cycles. Today its cloud migration, tomorrow it will be the next new technology. The sooner we get these interjected into government programs, the better, but it’s a huge challenge.

GJ: I met with a lot of the integrators and similar conversations are happening. When I meet with IT teams, the first thing they ask is always “How do we help this customer get to the cloud in a timely way while meeting the mission?” Technology is changing so fast that customers are struggling with the rate of adoption.

GDD: What were the major trends and/or technologies highlighted at this year’s show?

LW: As the government tries to mirror what a lot of commercial companies like Facebook and Netflix do and making data available to disparate groups around the world, cybersecurity is becoming more critical. Artificial intelligence is being used to automate and analyze the amount of data that’s being collected in the marketplace and taking advantage of data analytics and machine learning capabilities is clearly a trending topic as we look to the future.

GJ: Anything in the application development space and cybersecurity was a huge topic of discussion. Customers are not just interested in how to store and manage all of this data, but how to take data and turn it into something useful. Today, data is the most valuable commodity for agencies. What to do with it and manage it is becoming increasingly important.
GDD: Any other highlights or experiences from the event that you’d like to share?

LW:  The successes of conferences like GEOINT are tremendously tied to the quality of government attendees. This year, we were lucky to have people like Robert Cardillo, Director of the NGA on the show floor, engaged, and participating throughout the week. That level of participation and commitment is key to making these shows a success.