At Red Hat, Mike Miller leads teams that deliver cloud-based solutions, high-performing Linux applications, containers and Kubernetes technologies to help solve complicated problems for the government. As vice president of enterprise sales for North American public sector, his focus is working with agencies across federal, state and local government, as well as systems integrators, like those involved in aerospace and defense, to achieve their missions.
Miller commands 25 years of experience in cybersecurity, analytics, data protection, DevOps and code-free developments with time spent at companies such as Appian, Digital Reasoning Systems, Juniper Networks and others. The executive envisions his role as more than just sales; he also sees himself as a consultant who clients can trust to direct them down the right path regarding technology that will help them meet their mission objectives.
In this Executive Spotlight interview, Miller spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the most pressing technological conundrums facing the U.S. today, the solutions of tomorrow in this market and what he has learned about cross-sector partnership over the years, among other topics.
How is Red Hat positioning itself to solve the issues of the day in government information technology?
As agencies and organizations expand their operations from data centers to multiple clouds, to the edge, Red Hat is well-equipped to support their mission objectives. Intelligent capabilities must be delivered and operated, and data managed across all of these environments. Security, consistency, availability and simplicity are critical to achieving mission success.
These are areas where Red Hat stands out. Together with partners, we can create a holistic solution that helps to satisfy these needs and meet regulatory requirements and certifications.
What are some of the top IT trends you’re seeing in the federal government right now?
In addition to cybersecurity and the continued move to hybrid and multicloud environments, agencies are investing in systems and applications that can both collect and process data at the edge.
Data volumes are often too big to send back to a central data center. Plus, the transfer of information takes time, and teams need actionable intelligence quickly. The government realizes these limitations. That’s why the Army, Air Force and other U.S. agencies already have several edge technology use cases in play.
In fact, within the Department of Defense, the edge is becoming increasingly important. For instance, if we consider a potential conflict in INDO PACOM—characterized by a Denied, Degraded, Intermittent and Limited bandwidth environment—I believe U.S. deployed forces will need to maintain decision superiority.
My team at Red Hat has a front-row seat to the great work being done in this area. We’re seeing many customers turn to open source software because of its scalability, flexibility, and security, all of which are critical for edge computing. Cloud-native application development platforms like Red Hat OpenShift are well suited to support the use of cloud services and edge deployments.
How is AI impacting security and innovation across agencies?
Agencies are looking to take advantage of AI in mission delivery. AI enables organizations to automate routine tasks, saving both time and money. It also enables agencies to automatically enforce security policies and improve their cybersecurity postures more completely than would otherwise be achievable if human beings managed those processes.
Take CISA’s Binding Operational Directive 22-01 (BOD 22-01), which requires government agencies to patch known vulnerabilities quickly. The problem is that there are so many vulnerabilities and the number is growing daily. Administrators simply do not have the time to understand those threats, let alone continually match vulnerabilities to their systems. As such, they’re having a tough time complying.
But comply they must, and AI-driven automation enables them to do so quickly and accurately. It also gives them the power to ensure their systems comply with DISA Security Technical Implementation Guides.
There are other use cases in which AI is making a huge impact. For example, civilian agencies use AI in fraud detection for everything from benefits to taxes, law enforcement and beyond. Anywhere the government is spending or distributing money, you can be sure that there’s an AI system in place to improve the transaction’s accuracy, speed and legitimacy. AI innovation is making a direct and immediate impact in stopping the abuse of government funds.
I also see the DOD deploying AI and ML at the edge for timely situational awareness and decision-making. The lag of processing data back at the datacenter takes too long. In DDIL environments, there is no AI without an effective edge solution. AI at the edge is transforming the government’s ability to deliver insights and recommendations to individuals wherever they are. That could be in the air, at sea, or on land.
In short, I believe the applications for AI are limitless. It’s exciting to think we’re only at the beginning of the technology’s potential.
What type of technologies or processes should agencies be investing in as they wrap up FY2023 and head into FY2024?
I think agencies should focus on short-term modernization wins. For example, we have a customer that is interested in taking a legacy application that is decades old and transforming it into a more cohesive, manageable and portable system. Just focusing on this one application is expected to result in cost savings while providing long-term value.
I also recommend automating as much as possible, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. Automation can help agencies achieve their zero trust goals quickly and solidify their cybersecurity postures across both software and hardware systems.
It doesn’t have to be costly and time-intensive, either. For instance, agencies can set up an environment to monitor for vulnerabilities and comply with CISA BOD 22-01 with just their existing systems, no additional people and a credit card number. They can also take this opportunity to set up testbeds for automation environments before making a large financial commitment.
Finally, agencies should invest in solutions that can strengthen their cybersecurity postures, particularly when it comes to highly vulnerable software supply chains. Security teams at federal civilian agencies should focus on implementing zero trust and ask their partners and other agency leaders for best practices and software recommendations.
Can you talk about what makes for good collaboration between public and private sector organizations?
Being a close strategic partner compliant with government standards is the bedrock of good collaboration between vendors and their public sector customers. In my opinion, the ties between the private and public sectors have never been tighter.
Some commercial regulated businesses are looking to adopt federal compliance requirements and regulations. For example, both the insurance and financial services industries have shown interest in FedRAMPed Cloud Services. They are showing curiosity around FIPS and DISA STIGS as well. It would be wonderful to see government agencies embrace these commercial organizations to help improve compliance and the processes around achieving it. Government is great at governance, and commercial companies know how to move fast. Marrying those concepts can benefit everyone.
That’s something that Red Hat has always been good at doing. In fact, one of the things I love about Red Hat is that we have been a great strategic partner to the public sector for more than 25 years. We understand our customers’ needs and are always ready to advise them with whatever systems they’re implementing. We’re not just trying to sell them something; we are always looking for ways to collaborate with agencies and help them get the most out of Red Hat’s technology and all of our tools.
Complying with DISA STIGs and other guidelines and regulations is also essential. We focus on compliance because it shows we’re developing solutions that fit government security standards. More than that, it tells our customers that we’re going the extra mile to help agencies in their quest to achieve zero trust and comply with BOD 22-01, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and other critical guidelines.
These are just a few things that I believe are really meaningful to our customers. They’re also why we consider ourselves a powerhouse IT provider for the government. With our great network of partners and distributors, commitment to being a strategic partner and endeavors for continual compliance, we give agencies an optimal chance to be successful and meet their mission objectives.
Ultimately, isn’t that what every collaboration between the private and public sectors should strive for?