Data is no longer stored in large filing cabinets, buried in the catacombs of an agency. For the most part, data has moved into storage centers that physically house the information. However, even this more advanced storage option is in need of an upgrade in order to share, access and store data in more efficient and cost effective ways.
Federal agencies are starting to deploy virtualization and cloud solutions to speed up the performance and responsiveness of key business operations to lower costs. This means IT departments are moving away from spinning disk storage drives to flash drives in a solid-state storage disk system that allow agencies to store more data in less space and access it faster. As a result, users can access information when they need it, how they need it and in a cost efficient way.
To help agencies understand how they can optimize their data storage, GovLoop, NetApp and ThunderCat brought together experts from across sectors to discuss storage solutions during the “Why Data Storage Optimization Matters for Gov” roundtable.
Jeramiah Dooley, Principle Architect in the SolidFire Office of the CTO at NetApp; Kurt Steege, the Chief Technology Officer at ThunderCat Technology; Frank Konieczny, the Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Information Dominance and Chief Information Officer in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force; David Harrity, the Associate CIO for Enterprise Infrastructure and Operations at GSA; and Walter Bigelow, the Chief of IT Systems at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the Department of Justice led a discussion where three trends became clear:
Why storage is important. The government workforce needs fast access to information at any time, from any place and on any device, allowing agencies to drive their missions more efficiently. Data storage centers are having to become more adaptable in order for employees to move workloads around to where they are needed. Additionally, storage solutions must help make meaning of the data by making the data readily accessible in order for it to be analyzed. Harrity explained, “Storage has to provide value to the data that resides there through physical consolidation and analytics.”
Storage solutions also have to be agile. “The Air Force has 4 billion documents laying around in storage and we have thousands of data centers, so we use storage a lot,” Konieczny said. “As a result, we are looking for a storage solution that allows us to consolidate into a service model that allows us to get rid of old and useless data.”
Additionally, having a storage strategy will allow agencies to save money in the long run. Bigelow explained that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is moving into a unique hybrid storage model and is down to one data center that they are preparing to shut down. “We’re modernizing our storage strategy because the new systems do cost less, but at the end of the day, it’s really about spending less money on maintaining legacy systems,” he said.
Challenges to storage solutions. Despite the necessity to update how agencies store their data, doing so does not come without challenges. “Now people have to look at storage solutions that can initially seem expensive and make decisions on where they should put what data and what data they should keep,” Dooley said. However, he assured that vendors offer the ability to offer agile solutions that meet agencies where they are in their data storage optimization journey.
Steege added that, “it is important to have the ability to get the functionality in storage by combining things like flash and higher level storage together and extracting the data with a software layer that allows you to get the data you need without anything extra.” The promise of service that vendors provide is the ability for agency employees to get this information when, where and how they need it.
Integrating security priorities into your solution. Like all other IT modernization efforts, security must be an integral part of storage solutions. However, with storage, security can be a double edged sword. Konieczny explained that encrypting data is a blessing because it secures the information. But it can also be a curse because when you want to analyze that data, it has to be de-encrypted, analyzed and then re-encrypted. However, as agencies move from a network defense model of cybersecurity to a more data defense model, encryption is the best option for securing stored data.
Looking forward, agencies should embrace the solution that works for their mission priorities. Dooley concluded with a word of advice: “Focus on the pieces that matter. This is not flash, storage, or cloud. Focus on your objectives and the mission and vendors will be able to give you what you need to help you achieve this.”
For more information on the next generation of storage solutions, check out GovLoop’s recent industry perspective “Powering the Public Sector’s Next-Generation Data Center with Flash Storage.”