This interview is an excerpt from our recent guide, 25 Innovations You Should Know in 2018.
Federal agencies face daily pressure to handle the bandwidth demands on their IT networks. This burden is only becoming heavier with new devices and services being added all the time.
Unfortunately, today’s agencies are using legacy networks that don’t easily scale to meet these increased demands. Outdated government networks also pose a security risk because the addition of new devices means more ways for attackers to access agency networks.
According to experts at Ciena and CenturyLink – two vendors who are combining their expertise and technology to help agencies modernize their networks – an Adaptive Network is the solution to these challenges. In an interview with GovLoop, Jim Westdorp, Chief Technologist at Ciena, and Steve Opferman, Senior Director of Innovation at CenturyLink, explained the components of an Adaptive Network and how it can help agencies keep pace with rising bandwidth demands while balancing budgets and crucial mission needs.
“The Adaptive Network is the evolution from static infrastructure and services to dynamic ones,” Westdorp said. Whereas current government networks are often described as inflexible and rigid, the Adaptive Network provides the flexibility to quickly and securely deliver solutions that meet rapidly changing agency priorities.
The Adaptive Network delivers this through three key capabilities: programmable infrastructure, analytics intelligence, and software control and automation. Programmable infrastructure provides a system that is accessible and configurable through common open interfaces. This lets agencies adjust their resources as needed to satisfy the demands of their network’s applications in real-time.
Analytics and intelligence is the second element that agencies need amid increased bandwidth demands. Artificial intelligence and machine learning analyze network performance data to produce timely, actionable insights for organizations. These insights help agencies anticipate bandwidth demands, deploy resources more effectively, and predict potential problems.
“These tools give you the insight necessary to make changes and proactive repairs to the network before it fails,” Westdorp said. “You also greatly reduce the possibility of multiple faults happening simultaneously or near-simultaneously and causing a customer outage.”
Software control and automation is the third and final element of an Adaptive Network. These are essential abilities for automating and centralizing control over services across your network. More importantly, these capabilities function the same in any environment, regardless of how much of it is legacy systems and how much of it is cloud-based.
“The Adaptive Network is putting the functionality and sensors in place for instrumenting the network to determine its state and if there are any problems in it,” Westdorp said. “Then there’s automation and intelligence to analyze the data coming from the network. Finally, orchestration closes the loop and lets you make changes as a result.”
The Adaptive Network additionally improves how agencies serve their constituents. Today’s citizens are accustomed to easy, constantly accessible services from the private sector. Public sector organizations that fail to provide citizens with the same treatment risk losing their trust and the revenue their business generates.
“Many of these new technologies are designed to improve efficiency and performance and increase the utilization of the assets that we have,” Opferman said. “But we must always be mindful of reliability. These technologies should render a more highly reliable, fully tolerant platform.”
In addition to network reliability, cybersecurity is another major concern for agencies. The Adaptive Network doesn’t sacrifice any fortifications for the flexibility it gives agencies; rather, it builds automation on top of the defenses that organizations already have. Automation helps them detect and mitigate cyberthreats anywhere in their networks in real-time.
“We’re leveraging the network as it is today and adding enhancements on top of it,” Opferman said. “It meets the agencies’ needs in an expeditious fashion without compromising the resiliency that’s built into their networks.”
A tough but adaptable network can help agencies meet rising strains on their bandwidth and transform how they deliver services. The Adaptive Network meets organizations’ modernization needs with agility and security. It’s a model that saves them money by delivering high-performance connectivity and faster services to citizens.
“The Adaptive Network takes functions that historically have been comprised of multiple boxes and combines them into a single one,” Westdorp said. “By doing a better job of keeping your network near optimum performance, you can reduce the probability of a citizen-impacting event.”