Changing the Lens on Government IT: Refocusing on Innovation

The federal government faces a daunting IT challenge. Due to aging legacy infrastructure and out-of-control maintenance costs, agencies are struggling to keep pace with best practices that have become commonplace in the commercial space. Benchmarking government objectives with industry standards is a great starting point for driving innovative technologies that allow the government to get more out of their infrastructure, human capital investments, and IT performance.

Consider the following milestones:

Prioritize network modernization

Many government agencies are currently operating on network infrastructure that was conceived 20 years ago and put in place a decade ago. At the same time, the rest of the IT enterprise ecosystem has been transformed inside and out. With smartphones and cloud computing, as well as big data and the Internet of Things converging on government systems, endpoints have become fluid, large volumes of data are constantly in transit, and capacity needs are ever-expanding. As a result, networking infrastructure must manage traffic at volumes and frequencies well beyond its original design and capacity.

When asked about their agency’s readiness to deploy the five big IT trends in government – data center consolidation, mobility, security, big data and cloud computing – 84 percent of network managers felt they would be at risk for a network bottleneckshould all five be fully implemented today. It is time for agencies to prioritize network modernization and take advantage of virtualized network capabilities, like software defined networking (SDN).

Improve (really!) data center performance

Data indicates that government consistently falls behind commercial best practices in its efforts to reduce its data center footprint. In 2010, the federal government launched the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) to help combat the issue. However, the initial focus of the FDCCI was based on arbitrary metrics and the number of centers closed, rather than improved performance. Agencies were challenged to produce valuable measures of success, such as cost savings and increased efficiency. The focus needs to shift from shrinking real estate to enabling data center performance based on network needs. Going forward, performance goals should guide and drive the data center consolidation strategy. It’s no longer enough to reduce the footprint –it’s time to invest in modernization and increased capacity measures to gain more performance from data centers.

Eliminate dependence on legacy infrastructure

Government agencies have massive IT budgets, exceeding $80 billion last year alone. Yet their ability to innovate is limited due to the high percent of spending dedicated to maintenance of obsolete and aging technologies. In fact, maintenance spending is reported to account for as much as 73 percent of agency IT budgets. Agencies need to refocus on efforts like server utilization, data center consolidation and network modernization to get these numbers under control and free budget for innovation. With government technology priorities clearly outlined in initiatives like Cloud-First and the FDCCI, CIOs are well positioned to leverage these mandates as building blocks for procuring innovative technologies and new approaches.

Nothing limits government innovation more than vendor-lock in. Limiting competition through sole source procurement not only increases total cost of ownership of technology (TCO) but also prevents government agencies from scaling for their requirements and introducing new services and applications. According to Gartner, TCO on a network can be reduced by 15 to 20 percent just by adding a second vendor.

Government is at a critical point in the evolution of its IT infrastructure. Adopting the best practices we see in the commercial sector will allow the public sector to keep pace and move into the IT environment of the future.

How do your agency’s IT efforts align with commercial best practices? Read more about the opportunities we see in our white paper, The Necessity of Network Modernization.

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