Cloud Computing Expert Advances Government Missions

August 2017
Justin Brunelle
Justin Brunelle

Justin Brunelle clearly relishes working for MITRE, helping the government accelerate its use of the technology that's changing how the world operates. It's an exciting time for someone who has made web sciences his career. After all, technologies—from mobile systems and cloud computing to big data analytics and the Internet of Things—change almost daily.

A specialist in cloud computing, Brunelle recently completed his doctorate in computer science from Old Dominion University with financial support from MITRE. He frequently publishes papers about the government's use of the cloud and provides expertise to the public and industry.

"We deliver concrete recommendations that accelerate their cloud adoption," he says. "This head start enables agencies to do in days what they frequently were struggling to accomplish for months."

Agencies call on MITRE to help them navigate challenges unique to the government—ones that commercial companies may not face. Depending on the agency, these challenges might include specific regulations, network security policies, data privacy, and other factors that constrain them from diving right into the latest technology.

Brunelle has applied his cloud computing know-how to several of our sponsors. For example, last year he advised the Department of Veterans Affairs on best practices for migrating its services from legacy environments to those in a cloud.

"We helped the VA understand the processes other agencies used to migrate their services to the cloud. We outlined potential pitfalls and challenges, and helped them interface with commercial cloud providers. This ensured the solutions they were procuring would be as impactful as possible for the VA’s customers."

Brunelle has also supported the Army’s efforts to adopt emerging cloud architectures. "For the military, the challenge is that traditional cloud services rely on robust network connections and communications. But in a tactical environment in the field that’s not always the case."

His team focused on mitigating the challenge of being disconnected but still taking advantage of the benefits of cloud services. "We performed research on algorithms, processes, and architectures that would allow computation in tactical environments to be performed even when you don’t have a reliable network connection."

(Video) MITRE's Justin Brunelle talks about his work in emerging technologies.

Linking Knowledge Across Domains

Even if the details vary, many of MITRE's sponsors have the same underlying issues when it comes to integrating or adopting new technologies. "Cybersecurity is a big priority for everyone," Brunelle says. "There's definitely a lot of cross-pollination of ideas here and a wealth of MITRE knowledge to draw from."

That's where Brunelle's other specialty—the ability to apply knowledge from one area for the benefit of another—comes in. He's become crucial to an ongoing public-private collaboration that's helping government adopt emerging technologies.

In this role, Brunelle coordinates MITRE's work with the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC). ATARC is a forum for industry and academia to collaborate with the federal government to solve technology challenges.

MITRE staff have been involved with ATARC since a 2013 summit that addressed mobile computing. Following the summits, MITRE develops reports on such topics as big data and the Internet of Things, which are available both on our website and ATARC's. Brunelle got involved when ATARC added a cloud computing summit.

The summit’s first cloud computing white paper identified specific challenges facing the government adoption of cloud computing technologies and cited best practices that have been adopted by government cloud practitioners. It also included recommendations for government, industry, academia, and FFRDCs to pursue to ease and advance the adoption of cloud computing within the federal government. Since that first paper, the publications have become a series.

Brunelle's collaborations with ATARC participants have also expanded his knowledge well beyond cloud computing.

"I now work with any kind of emerging technology—Internet of Things, mobile, big data, and web science," he says. "As the operator of several federally funded research and development centers, MITRE has the opportunity to influence those domains and apply lessons learned to the next emerging technology challenge.”

At Work or at Play—Nothing but Net

As a newly minted Ph.D., Brunelle also embraces the opportunities he gets to give back to the research community. He serves on the programming committees for conferences, speaks at events, and publishes in journals on topics such as web content archiving and ways to improve it with new technology, as well as advances in digital library sciences. He also was the committee co-chair for posters and demonstrations at the recent 17th ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries.

"We often take principles that worked in addressing an issue with cloud computing, for instance, and apply them to web science or information retrieval."

Even when he's relaxing, Brunelle extends his influence in the research community. He plays basketball in an engineers' league at NASA's Langley Research Center (recently in the public eye as the setting of the hit movie Hidden Figures). It's located just a few minutes away from his Hampton office.

"Every day is different—and that's a good thing. It's one of the benefits of working here. It keeps my job fun and interesting."

—by Jeremy D. Singer

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