Why Agencies Need A Software-Defined Approach to Networking

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent report, “How Your Agency Can Modernize Using Secure SD-WAN.” Download the full report here

Agencies are under mounting pressure to adopt digital and cloud-based tools that enhance workforce productivity and improve citizen services. These rising expectations come at a time when the roughly $88 billion federal IT budget is poised to remain relatively flat, if the president’s 2020 budget proposal is any indication of what’s to come.

The resource-intensive applications that today’s mobile and remote workers need — such as video, voice and collaboration tools — put a strain on bandwidth and the already overburdened agency networks that face a barrage of cyberthreats daily. While acquiring IT resources, individual branches and departments have operated in a manner that has only exacerbated the issue.

“As governments built their IT networks and acquired IT assets, there was a lack of accountability or even software capability to keep track of a rapid deployment of IT on networks,” Fernandez said. “That also lent itself to the shadow IT problem, where individuals who had a procurement capability were acquiring assets without even telling their leadership.”

Oversight of these activities fell by the wayside to keep pace with IT demands. And the current environment of disparate hardware and software makes troubleshooting network issues all the more challenging, Shah said. Simple fixes now may take days or weeks, hindering mission-critical and time-sensitive work.

“Meanwhile, agency officials are overseeing the migration of traditional networks to direct internet services, and they face growing concerns about securing data and devices on the public network,” he said.

IT officials need to ensure that new networking solutions and internet access are compliant with strict government and agency regulations, such as those set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Homeland Security Department (DHS). Agencies need to implement solutions that have built-in security — without hindering critical business operations — all while limiting downtime and reducing costs.

But not all agencies are located near prime internet hubs. Some are in very remote locations that have few options in terms of what’s available for WAN or an internet service provider.

Ultimately, modernizing the telecommunications environment is limited by what’s available in that area and the technical expertise of staff to deploy modern networks in the cloud.

The Solution: A Software-Defined Approach to Networking

With the escalating adoption of bandwidth-hungry SaaS applications, agencies must rethink their WAN strategies and how they can deliver secure, modern and cost-effective networking capabilities. Agencies need a software-defined approach to delivering and managing WANs.

Traditional WAN allows agencies to ensure distributed remote locations maintain seamless network access as digital demands increase. But agencies need WAN solutions that improve efficiency and enhance security to keep pace with greater demands on the network and increased cyberthreats.

That’s where SD-WAN comes in. For example, Fortinet’s Secure SD-WAN uses a software-based service that runs on a single platform and includes routing, critical network functions and applications (such as voice, video, Wi-Fi and internet) and comprehensive network security. Those functions also need to be seamlessly integrated into today’s complex distributed networks, including multi-cloud. SD-WAN enables users to securely connect to cloud resources.

With SD-WAN, agencies have greater visibility and management across their network environments, access to an integrated security infrastructure, reduced WAN operating expenses and applications that are more reliable, robust and secure. One of the reasons is that SD-WAN separates networking hardware from its control mechanism — giving agencies greater flexibility to adapt to network changes.

The technology also frees agencies up from focusing on routing and how packets of data traverse the network to business outcomes and accessibility to mission applications.

Read the full report to learn more about secure SD-WAN and how it can help your agency. 

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