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A CTO’s Guide To The Top Federal Technology Topics of 2013

By Bob Gourley

You know the top federal IT news of 2013, after all, you probably lived it.  We all tracked topics like the Shutdown and its impact on IT,, NSA programs, Data Center consolidation efforts.

Every one of those stories have something in common. None of them were really about technology. The really interesting stories, at least from a CTO perspective, are big technology mega trends that are forcing change and positive improvements in enterprise IT.

I reviewed a years worth of reporting at, FederalTimes, SiliconANGLE, Mashable and TechCrunch with an eye to the technology stories I believe had the biggest impact on the federal enterprise in 2013. The result is below in this list of

The Top Federal Technology Topics of 2013

  • Drones and Robots: Through the year we reported on continued advancements in robotics, starting with fun stories and video clips of robot fish and surfing robot drones. DARPA has been investing in Robotics for years and reports throughout 2013 showed continued progress in humanoid robots as well as military systems. Some cool ones are being fielded by Boston Dynamics. This company was acquired by Google at years end causing many of us to think through the scary prophecies of Bill Joy in his April 2000 Wired piece on “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.”  Years of DARPA work and follow-on work by the USN and integrators resulted in Robotic drones landing on and taking off from Aircraft Carriers. We also highlighted Northrop Grumman’s fielding of a fearless combat Robot with incredibly firepower.
  • Enterprise Data Hub: This could be the number one trend in data. The place for enterprises to store all data with enterprise grade data management and protection, with access by any system (from legacy to modern, from proprietary to open source). This is the big data news of 2013, from a technology perspective.
  • Google Glass: While still in a beta program, the Glass is out there and we have been testing it. A killer app for Glass is the camera, which can take photos and video. Another killer app is the ability to search Google (including asking just about any question in the world) just by your voice. These devices are just the most widely know of the new category of Wearable computers. Wearables were a definite hot topic in 2013 and this will continue.
  • Software Defined Networking: This new concept and technology, referred to as SDN, has the potential to be just as virtuous and disruptive as virtualization was to the server industry. 2013 saw many government technology professionals begin to examine this construct.
  • In Memory Computing: This is a new architecture approach that is being leveraged to modernize old systems and design new systems that perform at incredible capacity. This takes advantage of new powerful RAM technologies that allow massive quantities of data to be held in memory.
  • Microsoft Office 365: For many this just snuck up on us. Microsoft has been saying they are going to the cloud for years, but always seemed to be behind the first movers. In 2013 they came out with this technology that has leaped ahead of the crowd, delivering incredibly low cost, high performance capabilities for individuals, small businesses and enterprises. This should have been a bigger tech story in 2013.
  • Business Intelligence 2.0: For years, Business Intelligence was a discipline and a set of technologies that helped answer specific questions of use to specific groups. For the most part, it was for closed-world-classes of problems where the data and questions were known long in advance of system design. With the new technologies of Big Data, a new way of doing business intelligence has come about and these tools are making their way into the federal enterprise and are already making a difference. Expect this to accelerate into 2014 as well.
  • Hadoop 2.0: 2013 saw the release of a new version of Hadoop, the first major upgrade since the beginning of Hadoop.  Hadoop 2.0 consists of significant improvements to many components, including new abilities to program Hadoop (new Map Reduce capabilities called YARN), new ways of tracking jobs, new ways to track the status of resources and other new capabilities.  Hadoop was, in my opinion, the most significant technology in the federal space in 2013 because of its mission impact in so many sectors.  It may well be that again in 2014.

That is my short list of technologies that had the biggest impact in the federal space in 2013. Did I miss any? Please let me know in the comments or via Twitter. You can find me at



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More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley, former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), is Founder and CTO of Crucial Point LLC, a technology research and advisory firm providing fact based technology reviews in support of venture capital, private equity and emerging technology firms. He has extensive industry experience in intelligence and security and was awarded an intelligence community meritorious achievement award by AFCEA in 2008, and has also been recognized as an Infoworld Top 25 CTO and as one of the most fascinating communicators in Government IT by GovFresh.

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