Dan Wilbricht is the regional director of intelligence programs for Dell Software Group. A cloud computing expert whose background in the intelligence community spans 20 years, during our interview, Wilbricht discussed the challenges surrounding big data analytics programs, big data’s impact on the intelligence community and big data collaboration among government leaders.
Wilbricht emphasized that it is imperative to settle on a big data definition before engaging in a discussion about the topic. He defined the term as “managing unstructured and structured information.”
WashingtonExec: How do you believe big data is changing the Intelligence Community (IC)?
Dan Wilbricht: The concept of big data has been around for a while, but it has recently come into the spotlight. In 2012, the Obama Administration announced it would dedicate about $200 million to improve tools for analysis in big data. Despite those efforts, some of the biggest challenges in big data center around the lack of data scientists in the United States.
Working with data scientist to solve big data challenges can take months. We want to put the same capabilities data scientists have in the hands of IT analysts, making it possible to solve those problems in a matter of hours. Dell Software offers business intelligence tools that help analysts make better use of big data and more efficiently address the challenge that is in front of us.
“As long as the right people have access to data and agencies are operating securely, data sharing becomes more comfortable”
WashingtonExec: Some technologists argue that the largest issue with big data is lack of technological advancement, but is there a cultural issue? Are leaders are not comfortable with “releasing” their data?
Dan Wilbricht: As the government prioritizes big data, some agencies are focused on keeping their data private. However, in the intelligence community, the mindset has become ‘we all need to share our information, so we can connect the dots.’ As long as the right people have access to data and agencies are operating securely, data sharing becomes more comfortable.
The security challenge can be addressed by offering a holistic approach of end-to-end security from the firewall to the data itself. What Dell Software has focused on is providing that inside-out, outside-in protection, from identity management all the way down to the firewall.
WashingtonExec: How would you describe the connection between big data, cloud computing and mobility?
Dan Wilbricht: Challenges of the convergence of big data, cloud and mobility boil down to the need for strong security built around the cloud. This ensures that mobile and internal apps are controlled, that individuals who need access to data can use it, and that those who should not have access are monitored and kept out.
WashingtonExec: What do you see as the next big IT innovation for the 21st century workforce?
Dan Wilbricht: In terms of authentication, we’re going to see smaller devices that will recognize who you are without ever requiring a password. They will use biological authentication, as well as automation.
When it comes to mobility, adoption of ‘bring your own device’ is going to occur much more quickly in the intelligence community and DOD. However, the ability to manage those devices and ensure their security will prove to be a major challenge.
WashingtonExec: How will cyber security affect the implementation of mobile apps in the public and private sector over the next few years?
Dan Wilbricht: It goes back to taking a holistic approach to security. Organizations need to approach security not only by protecting the outside from accessing sensitive data, but also by ensuring the people inside the organization’s walls are monitored.
It is more difficult to manage unstructured data, but when you take a step back and look at the firewall, identity management and all of the pieces security, the necessary level of security becomes manageable.
WashingtonExec: What is the largest roadblock you run into when implementing big data analytics programs?
Dan Wilbricht: I think the biggest challenge is just ensuring that folks understand what big data is and what it means to them so they can make the most of available information and tools.
WashingtonExec: If you couldn’t use the words “big data” how would you define big data?
Dan Wilbricht: I would define big data as management of unstructured and structured information. It’s connecting the dots between new and existing information and managing it to determine its significance. The old saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is relevant when you are starting to analyze this data.
WashingtonExec: What local community organizations are you involved in?
Dan Wilbricht: I’m involved in a number of intelligence community groups. We support the Wounded Warrior and are grateful for our veteran’s commitment to supporting our government and country.