This interview is an excerpt from our recent guide, 30 Government Innovations That Mattered in 2015 which examines 30 government case studies that explore innovation at all levels of government. Innovations that spanned the government job spectrum from human resources to cybersecurity and back again.
Security and speed are generally concepts that are incongruous for the public sector. Rarely do government agencies think they can be both fundamentally secure and still deploy new, innovative technologies and solutions at a fast rate – a rate on par with their private sector counterparts. However, that thought process is becoming outdated now that flash storage solutions are fundamentally changing the speed and efficiency of government applications.
In order to better understand how flash storage can help the public sector be both secure and innovative, GovLoop sat down with Vaughn Stewart, Vice President of Enterprise Architecture at Pure Storage.
At its most basic level, flash storage is a data repository or storage system that uses flash memory instead of traditional spinning disks. Like a record player, disk storage leverages rotating platters and heads to read data from a magnetic device; while flash storage leverages flash memory (the same flash that’s in a modern smart phone), to vastly improve performance. With Pure Storage, customers don’t have to sacrifice performance for security.
“Pure Storage is highly robust secure and simple. The FlashArray can accelerate data processing, allowing what used to take a year n spinning disk to complete in a month and with all of the data encrypted based on a NIST validated AS-256 encryption algorithm,” said Stewart. “The beauty with Pure is the level of security and hardening in the FlashArray is all behind the seems and does not complicate the simplicity of our platform. You simply cannot find this with traditional disk based storage.”
Pure Storage deploys its solutions with government-approved security features not only included (at no additional cost), but also on by default. “There’s no way to step down or turn off this data security. Our solution prevents you from being exposed to a cyberattack due to human error,” said Stewart.
Of course, security is more complex than just the protection of the data. Often, government organizations are running additional cybersecurity software to further protect networks. While agencies are conditioned to expect performance degradation with enhanced security, Pure has shown that by running those products on all-flash storage they can get the security they need, while maintaining superior performance levels.
Putting security first goes a long way to helping both government employees and the public feel more secure about the data the government is hosting. “Particularly in the wake of the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) breach where over 22 million personnel records were hacked, cybersecurity has become personal to government employees,” said Stewart. “Pure storage aligns to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) which was rolled out by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). The foundation of the NIC model is ‘Provision Securely,’ which means protect your agency from malicious insiders. By embedding security solutions at every layer and allowing organizations to maintain performance levels, we can help ease this tension while helping to make government more secure.”
Stewart noted that flash storage allows government agencies to securely deploy solutions exponentially faster in three critical ways:
First, since flash is memory-based media, it’s 10 times faster than disk. Whether it allows first responders use to get the information they need quickly, speeds up a report that used to take hours to run or allows citizens to check the status of a safety complaint, flash can accelerate an agency’s most critical functions.
Second, flash storage requires no tuning. Not only can IT workers use their time better elsewhere, but government organizations can deploy new initiatives with confidence that their storage infrastructure can handle even the most demanding applications and the highest peaks in demand.
Third, flash can actually reduce the number of servers, software licensing and administrative overhead it takes to run datacenter operations. With a smaller footprint, coupled with lower power and cooling costs, storage has never been simpler to manage.
“All three of those have an acceleration element to it,” explained Stewart. “Agencies can both deliver computation results faster and help their staff be more agile because they’ve eliminated a lot of the overhead, additional servers and software licenses that are required to operate.”
For example, think about a police department’s response to a potential terrorist incident, where fast access to information is crucial. Does their need for fast data mean they’re willing to risk leaking information to the public, potentially causing widespread panic? Absolutely not. “If they are trying to react to an incident, or prevent an incident, the speed at which they send and receive information is critical. With flash, that happens at a much faster rate without compromising security,” said Stewart.
Security, speed and innovation aren’t always synonymous in government, but flash storage is making it a reality.