Commentary

Pivoting for the next big leap in government IT

businessman choosing solutions on touch screen

The technological advancements that have occurred in the IT universe in the past 10 to 20 years are remarkable. Today's smartphones and tablets provide access to information faster than the mainframe computers of 20 years ago. Storage costs have plummeted, and an ever-growing share of data and processing is moving to the cloud.

Not only can computers connect to the Internet, but so can cars, refrigerators and watches.

In the federal space, cloud-first and virtualization initiatives -- which are designed to provide a more efficient, modernization-ready and technology-optimized environment -- are gaining steady momentum at government agencies. Before server virtualization became mainstream, IT assets in the public sector were severely underused, resulting in unnecessary duplication and expensive redundancies.

In recent years, however, making server virtualization a priority has produced dramatic cost savings and myriad benefits for IT managers and end users alike.

Yet for all the advancements we've seen in consumer technology and enterprise applications in the past couple of decades, government networks have remained largely unchanged. That slow pace of technology adoption is affecting both system management and portfolio development, and leading many people to ask about the next step in the government's innovation agenda.

Mobile, social, cloud storage and shared services have combined to dramatically alter the nature of network traffic and data management, yet stagnant networking technologies are hampering collaboration and productivity. Consequently, modernizing the network is an essential building block for government CIOs who strive to improve citizen services and support for warfighters.

Virtualized networks and software defined networking (SDN) -- hallmarks of the modernized network -- are designed to handle the new pace of traffic, flexibly direct information and efficiently transfer data. What's more, the amount of money the government could save as a result of network modernization is astounding. Brocade's recent white paper "The Necessity of Network Modernization" concluded that the government has an opportunity to potentially save more than $2 billion annually by modernizing its network systems and procurement strategies.

The benefits go beyond the financial, however. SDN in particular offers a new way to manipulate networks by improving both agility and economies of scale. The technology makes it possible to manage networks externally with unprecedented automation and predictive capabilities.

Some government organizations are already taking advantage of the new opportunities offered by SDN and network modernization, particularly the Defense Department. But many more are watching and waiting -- and hindering their ability to deliver on critical missions as a result.

The network is central to all the IT functions on which the government depends every day. From sending an email message to accessing information stored in the cloud, the network determines how efficiently and quickly information can be used and shared.

If cost savings, cloud adoption, improved mobility and more efficient data use are agency priorities, then the next step is clear: It is time to embrace the next big thing in government IT and get moving on network modernization.

About the Author

Anthony Robbins is vice president of federal sales at Brocade.

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