August 8, 2011 – Former Microsoft executive and FCC managing director Steven VanRoekel has been picked by President Obama to take over as federal CIO, a job that carries changing demands with government plans for security and cloud adoption, according to industry analysts.

In replacing outgoing CIO Vivek Kundra, VanRoekel comes to the new appointment from previous director positions at the U.S. Agency for International Development and, before that, two years at the Federal Communications Commission, according to a news release on last Thursday’s announcement. From 1994 to 2009, he worked as Microsoft, as an assistant to Bill Gates and, most recently, as senior director for Windows Server and Tools division. VanRoekel received a B.A. in Management of Information Systems from Iowa State University.

In the federal CIO role, VanRoekel said he would continue along the roadmap of his predecessor, Kundra, who is taking up a fellowship at Harvard following his two-and-a-half years as the first federal CIO. That roadmap is outlined in Kundra’s 18-month, 25-point plan released in December for the U.S. government, the world’s largest IT buyer with an about $80 billion annual budget. Overall, the federal IT plan focuses on shared services, virtualization and cloud adoption, increased industry engagement, and streamlined governance and accountability.

Before stepping down in July, Kundra racked up quick implementation of email cloud adoption by certain government agencies, data center consolidations and billions of dollars in IT savings. However, continuing along the roadmap presents unique challenges, according to industry analysts.

Dick Csaplar, Aberdeen Group senior research analyst specializing in virtualization and storage, says federal data centers he’s visited “look like a computer museum with all different types of servers, storage, networking and appliance gear.” Csaplar says he would have VanRoekel focus on industry-standard deployments.

“By purchasing computing products based on industry standards technologies, you ensure that the federal government is not on the bleeding edge of technology and [that] there are many companies that continue to support deployed products in the future,” he says.

Scott Crawford, managing research director for security and risk management with Enterprise Management Associates, said one big first step in the realm of security would be along the lines of a DARPA project that would entail cutting red tape for funding new federal innovation and research. Efficiency efforts toward the “sheer volume of data” the U.S. government handles would help greatly with fruitful execution of security across the number of federal systems and varying information security clearances.

“I suspect that the mandates for adoption were likely intended in part to at least light a fire under the agencies to make tangible progress toward continuous security monitoring. But mandated adoption does not always translate into fact when a number of obstacles must be overcome along the way,” says Crawford.

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