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Don’t Give Up on Government Innovation

Network promises entice the slow-to-respond bureaucracy

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It seems like government is everybody’s favorite punching bag these days, and its use of technology doesn’t provide much cover. When it comes to cloud, though, the U.S. government was early to promote a Cloud First policy back in 2010 and looked to be on the cusp of major transformation. Since then, not so much.

A recent survey of federal agencies found that progress is slow and halting, with a majority of respondents saying their agencies are not yet making cloud a priority. There’s also broad sentiment among those respondents that agencies are missing out on savings by focusing on private cloud over public, hybrid or community clouds.

As a CIO article points out, “that transition has been slow to take shape, with officials continuing to express concerns about how to manage cloud deployments and uncertainty about navigating the maze of commercial providers.”

Anthony Robbins, vice president of federal sales at Brocade, penned an opinion column recently for Federal Computer Week in which he observed that, “Mobile, social, cloud storage and shared services have combined to dramatically alter the nature of network traffic and data management, yet stagnant networking technologies are hampering collaboration and productivity. Consequently, modernizing the network is an essential building block for government CIOs who strive to improve citizen services and support for warfighters.”

As data centers have virtualized virtually all assets, and increasingly moved to embrace cloud, it has become apparent that networking architecture really hasn’t kept pace with all the other innovation enterprises are taking advantage of. The benefits so far have been stunning, with server consolidation lowering hardware and software licensing costs, faster deployment for new applications and services and so forth.

“At some point in the future, this type of highly virtualized, services-on-demand delivery model enabled through cloud computing will be the IT gold standard,” Brocade predicts in a white paper titled Data Center Evolution without Revolution. But to get there, Brocade says, “Data centers will need network architectures that support more virtualized environments and cloud operations models that reduce the time to deploy new applications.”

Now, most of us can’t imagine government centers doing a “rip and replace” of existing infrastructure to reach this nirvana. In fact, it’s hard to imagine private enterprise taking such drastic action, for the most part.

So the issue really is how do you get from here to there with the least disruption and maximum benefit?

As more server virtualization and cloud computing projects are deployed in the data center, the existing network design can adapt gracefully, one rack at a time. Organizations can phase-in network convergence and reduce complexity while still supporting virtualization and cloud computing services.

That type of managed evolution is undoubtedly more palatable than rip and replace.

Slowly evolving the network enables organizations to consolidate their resources as well as support server virtualization and cloud computing wherever and whenever it makes sense. By planning a migration path that rolls in new platforms and repurposes old platforms, the enterprise can transform the data center over time. It may take the government a little longer to get there than industry, but we’ll all eventually make the transition.

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