This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent industry perspective, “Converging IT to Meet Your Mission Needs.”
Traditionally, government data centers house large collections of disparate servers, storage and networking equipment that support specific applications. Multiple vendors often supply these components, creating a lot of work for agency IT professionals who must ensure that all those solutions work together and are integrated into the overall IT infrastructure.
Legacy systems often include multiple generations of software, with different support staff managing each system. This creates additional silos between IT and operations teams, which can be problematic when trying to navigate IT upgrades.
Simply put, these traditional methods of managing government data centers are no longer sustainable.
How can government agencies, particularly at the federal level, better manage these ever-increasing volumes of data and their IT infrastructures? The answer lies in converged infrastructure (CI). Rather than running many separate systems across a data center, CI combines servers, storage and networking into a single unit. It often includes applications, too. This solution can improve IT simplicity, speed, responsiveness, dependability and affordability.
As opposed to owning and managing disparate hardware, CI offers a more flexible self-service model in which resources are consumed on demand. Rather than multiple IT assets in independent silos, CI bundles hardware components with a management platform or software to orchestrate and provision the resources as a single integrated system.
Traditional data center design requires application servers, backup appliances, networks and storage systems to be individually configured and linked together. Often, a dedicated IT team manages each component separately.
In contrast, CI offers branded and supported products in which all the components — servers, software and storage — reside natively on a hardware appliance. With convergence, the same services provided in stacks of equipment can be achieved in one integrated box.
Vendors typically sell converged systems as a platform. In some instances, that bundle will comprise multivendor components, but everything is prebuilt. Support is also handled through a single vendor, which makes resolving problems much easier.
With converged infrastructure, you only have to work with a single vendor. This means only one organization is responsible for the support of a whole data infrastructure. Thus, CI reduces IT complexities and can improve mission performance for agencies. For example, government has thousands of hours of video and other types of data without resources to help take advantage of the information contained within such data. CI can help agencies manage that influx of data and turn it into actionable intelligence.
For your agency to create the right IT ecosystem conducive to CI success, it’s important to follow these best practices and recommendations:
1. Identify use cases. With data, user and workload volumes increasing, consider where CI solutions would work best for your agency. Determine what IT strategies and investments it can best support and in which environments CI would be most beneficial.
2. Champion buy-in. Identify key personnel in the organization who can effectively drive the change your agency needs to implement CI. When leaders hear about convergence for the first time, they might think it’s simply a solution that combines IT and data centers. CI can reduce cluttering in data centers, but the benefits far surpass organization. When discussing CI with senior decision-makers, reference other agency success stories, especially those that emphasize improved operational efficiency, deployment turnarounds and mission success.
3. Streamline IT organizations. Set your IT groups up with the right information to effect change from within. Assign roles accordingly and understand what parts of the project need to be addressed. For example, make sure your storage and networks are managed from a single pane of glass, meaning all teams have the same visibility. Foster collaboration by bringing teams together in person, if possible.
4. Prepare to scale. As you start to implement the converged technology, you may see IT innovation opportunities quickly expand. For example, you might want to use all the streamlined data your agency has to launch a huge open data project. But don’t get too ambitious and overreach your agency’s capabilities. Instead, start by incorporating convergence into your agency’s IT strategy and go for the smaller wins. As you implement, lay the groundwork for future IT expansion.
The current state of federal IT is no longer sustainable. Modern demands mean government must change the way it purchases, builds and delivers IT solutions.
CI offers a way to combine leading industry networks, storage, services and solutions into one manageable data center platform. IronBrick offers federal agencies a way to partner with leading private-sector companies in a way that doesn’t require managing disparate solutions and vendors.
The future of IT is already here. With CI, government has a chance to stay ahead of IT modernization by enabling IT teams to focus less on managing data centers and more on innovation. Most importantly, agencies can meet the public’s growing demands.