Executive Spotlight: Interview with Bill Downer, Sr. Director of National Programs for Seagate

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Bill Downer

Bill Downer is the Senior Director of National Programs for Seagate Government Solutions. He has over 20 years of sales, support and services leadership experience serving public and private sector clientele via direct and indirect sales and is a respected member of the data storage and information technology community.

ExecutiveBiz: What are the challenges that the government faces with storage data collection and analysis? What are some of the solutions?

Bill Downer: The government has a lot of challenges with the current networks and capabilities it has. Clearly in the case of sensor processing and activities, they need to move the analytics and the storage closer to the center so that the information that is collected is more useful to the war fighter and accessible more quickly. There are a lot of requirements for analytics on the storage or analytics close to the storage.

There are several challenges for storage and analytics, including the time for decision, and time for useful data. There is now too much machine-generated data — so there’s an infrastructure challenge. There’s a tidal wave of data and we must move the storage and analytics of the information closer and closer to the device collecting the data. The device can be anything from a refrigerator to a UAV. We have to create more functional data devices that can do more and are closer to whatever data is being captured.

Seagate is doing a lot of work around creating denser, lighter-weight storage devices with analytics on-board those storage devices to accommodate the challenges of the government. Seagate sells storage devices, either solid state or spinning disk drives, as well as systems. We are doing a lot of work at the device level to put more and more capabilities on those mobile devices. These are three-and-a-half and two-and-a-half inch devices that can perform analytics very close to or on the storage device.

ExecutiveBiz: DoD and the intelligence communities are focusing a lot on integration. Could you tell us more about that and what affect it has on cybersecurity and data infrastructure?

Bill Downer: We’ve got to do a lot more with less, whether it is with high-performance analytics or whatever we are doing across the spectrum; we have to be able to have platforms that support those activities.

Dynamically, according to the combat activity, we can have anywhere from 17 to 32 partners that we need to be able to provide information to in a timely manner — but to also make sure only the correct information gets to each of these partners.

According to what’s going on, we are going to have a different number of partners, so we have to be able to build information technology access that will support flexibility and the ability to be repurposed quickly to support our partners in whatever activity we are engaged in.

ExecutiveBiz: Why is multi-level security vital to the future success of operations?

Bill Downer: We need to provide the right information to the right set of partners at the right time. We need to build richer solutions that are cyber-protected and properly managed so that only those with the need-to-know for that particular activity have access. It has to be able to expand and collapse, according to the requirements at the moment.

Multi-level security is the ability to handle a lot of different data elements with different security sensitivity. In one particular solution, we are talking with our partners about something that Lockheed Martin has termed “data-centric multi-level security.” It is about accessing data based upon the role of the individual and organization to provide access to specific data elements. That solution promises to have a lot of the capabilities the government is looking for.

ExecutiveBiz: You talked about expanding and collapsing roles. Is that a challenge?

Bill Downer: It is a difficult challenge. We built a lot of purpose-built systems that have one-way guards that allow data elements to pass to another system. We need to be able to get past the one-way guard concept into this more multi-domain system that can be dynamically managed according to the need-to-know and the role of the people that are involved with the system. That also plays into the whole insider threat aspect. There are a lot of real-time forensics in this system that look at the users and what kind of data they are trying to access. This way if the access is not compliant with the policy that has been set up for that particular system, access will be denied and we are going to get alerts and indicators that somebody is trying to use information or download something that they are not supposed to according to their role.

ExecutiveBiz: Can you tell our readers more about what you talked about regarding multi-level security systems and some of the topics during the event in San Antonio?

Bill Downer: I was the host and master of ceremonies of an event that Seagate hosted, GOM, around multi-domain and multi-level security (MLS) solutions for the geospatial analysts’ community. We had four partners at the event who spoke. Lockheed and Leidos spoke on what they are doing with MLS systems. We had Cray and Hewlett Packard Enterprise speak about what they are doing in MLS, with a particular ecosystem that we are all participating in. Seagate has built a high-performing system that can work at the speed of war. It can operate at that level with the support of this ecosystem of partners, of which Leidos and Lockheed are two of the partners that are integrating this particular system.

ExecutiveBiz: When you say ecosystem what are you referring to in this case?

Bill Downer: It takes an ecosystem of partners to build this. We have an operating systems secure addition, SELinux from Red Hat; we have Splunk involved in doing the forensics; we have a relational database partner named Crunchy Data; we have Cray and HP as our computer vendors; Mellanox provides the switches, that are compliant with the MOS architecture. There is a whole group of firms working together to make multi-level security better and easier to use.

Seagate has built this appliance based on the Lustre file system that is a very high-performing and fully-compliant storage architecture to support this ecosystem. It is very much an OpenStack ecosystem of partners; Lockheed and Leidos have taken the stack and built it to be something that can be fully accredited and receive authority to operate with these agencies.

ExecutiveBiz: How do you see Seagate Government Solutions evolving and growing?

Bill Downer: We provide access for government end-users and integrators to build solutions that take advantage of Seagate’s intellectual property.

The government has a large R&D budget of almost a billion dollars a year. They are doing a lot of interesting things as they talk about moving analytics closer to the data on the devices, building secure systems that are fully encrypted, and building systems that are compliant with the FIPS 140-2 encryption capabilities. They are investing a lot of money around secure supply chain, encryption and complex solutions for the U.S. government.

Seagate Government Solutions was stood up to create the dialogue between the end-users and integrators with the technical capabilities of Seagate. We believe that the U.S. government could be a huge market in a relatively short amount of time for our products. We are building a team of engineers that can work with the government and the integrators to leverage the IP that Seagate has already created, and to get into a dialogue with those partners on what else we should be doing to build products that better meet the requirements of the U.S. government.

At the GOM, we announced that Carahsoft is our strategic partner to provide the TAA-compliant drives to the marketplace. We are doing a lot around secure supply chain and encryption that is government compliant. We are pivoting at the end of the year to pursue Common Criteria certification in accordance with the collaborative protection profiles for full drive encryption. We continue to invest in engineering and certification to build products that we believe are what the government needs. We have already put many of these new products on GSA through Carahsoft.