Extending Innovation’s Borders With SD-WAN

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased pressure on agencies in two key ways. First, they are facing unprecedented demand for remote work. Second, this push has strained their IT networks with historic burdens.

Many agencies have discovered that their legacy networks are not as agile, flexible and scalable as they need. Unfortunately, they have also discovered that haphazardly adding new tools only slows them down.

Looking ahead, agencies realize they need to modernize their networks, both to better support a remote workforce and as a foundation for innovation.

GovLoop spoke with Marlin McFate, Public Sector Chief Technology Officer at Riverbed Technology, an IT network performance management and monitoring provider, and Sean Applegate, CTO at SwishData, a technology and engineering solutions provider, who offered these three tips for modernization planning.

1. Start with SD-WAN

Because of widespread remote work, more devices are connecting to agencies’ networks than before. Networks sometimes struggle with reliability and security, which escalate when agencies add more tools to their legacy systems to work around potential shortcomings.

“Networks over time have become these bolt-on environments,” McFate said of legacy IT systems. “The more we bolt on, the more complicated, inflexible and fragile networks become.”

Enter software-defined networking in a wide area network (SD-WAN). WANs enable networking and data transfer across large distributed environments, often with great distances between remote locations, and SD-WAN simplifies WAN operations and management with virtualization software.

SD-WAN initially reduces the complexity of agencies’ IT systems, which boosts the productivity and security of agencies’ networks. Eventually, SD-WAN will help agencies experience productivity gains that accelerate mission wins.

2. Embrace TIC 3.0

The original Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) policy of 2007 aimed to secure the federal government’s external network connections by reducing the number of connections as much as possible. Since then, TIC has struggled to evolve in tandem with emerging technologies such as cloud computing.

In 2019, TIC 3.0 was released to remove regulatory barriers to modernizing agencies’ technology. TIC 3.0 acknowledged that mobile technology and wireless networks have reshaped modern work and public demands. Subsequently, TIC 3.0 seeks to secure external network channels such as cloud for handling agencies’ applications, data and systems.

“Mission is the most important thing and productivity around mission is critical,” Applegate said.

When aligned with TIC 3.0, SD-WAN routes traffic more directly and logically to handle agencies’ workloads wherever they are.

3. Scale up Security

Cybersecurity is a big concern for remote workforces. After all, people produce most cybersecurity missteps.

SD-WAN helps fortify cybersecurity by creating shorter, simpler paths for data, reducing unpredictability and network traffic bottlenecks.

“The aim is to oversee security in a more centrally managed, centrally distributed way so that you can remove a lot of the human error,” McFate said.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Reinventing Government: 20 Innovations for 2020.” Download the full guide here.

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