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Why Agencies Must Flex Their Technology Muscles

6 Jul 2016 by Shay Moser

State and local government data centers are struggling to keep pace with the needs of the agencies and constituents they support, and that gap is increasing with the growing amount of data and security threats in today's world. These government agencies are uniquely challenged to fulfill their evolving mission for two reasons:

  1. They feel weighed down by legacy data center architectures and approaches.
  2. They are faced with budget pressures and/or staff limitations that hinder the ability to simultaneously maintain service levels and properly chart a path forward.

State and local government data centers must be agile enough to address megatrends like the growth of data analytics, the digital transformation of longstanding processes, and the growing threat of cyber-attacks and data breaches. But developing this agility often requires some difficult decisions: expanding, consolidating or relocating data centers, embracing new architectures and models, or transitioning operations from one organization to another.

In the face of such massive challenges and resource-intensive solutions, many state and local governments are unsure where to even begin. This daunting task often falls on overworked data center managers who are charged with identifying the most mission- and cost-effective path to align the evolving needs of their constituents to an ever-changing array of computing, storage, networking, monitoring and management options.

Three overarching needs are consistent across almost every data center effort, however:

  1. The need to meet the expanding IT demands of the agencies and constituents they support.
  2. The need to effectively manage costs, both tactically when budgets contract, and strategically when budgets expand.
  3. The need to address new threats and security risks as network technology evolves.

This post addresses expanding IT demands, with part two focusing on managing costs and risks.

Managing demand

For many state and local government data centers, there is a significant pain in the gap between current data center capabilities and where they need to be. They often experience symptoms of legacy systems not holding up to newer and expanded agency requirements, or situations where maintenance budgets are so large that they cannot move forward with new projects and initiatives.

From a legacy perspective, many agencies are tied to outdated operating systems like Windows Server 2003 and even Windows XP, paying onerous expenses to continue supporting such outmoded systems well after end of life. While upgrade paths are known and affordable to such agencies, there are often so many home-grown applications version-locked to those operating systems that the mission impact of updating is insurmountable.

Discovering a path forward requires more than data center consulting and project management: It requires a strategic understanding of mission-critical applications and systems, paired with an ability to coordinate software vendors and consultants that can seamlessly migrate from aging and version-locked software to more modern, open operating systems and applications.

On the public safety side — where there has always been a need to collaborate and analyze data — agencies seek to take their information technology to the next level. As more public services are performed digitally or have a digital component, agencies have seen an exponential increase in the need for server storage and data center capabilities. Most governments are required to store information for many years — much longer than the private sector — and to protect that data from unauthorized use, abuse or theft. As such, data centers are asked to fulfill missions unimagined just five or 10 years ago.

Accommodating the information needs of today's agencies and constituents, with a strong vision for how technology will advance in the next three to five years, is critical to supporting evolving missions for state and local government data centers.

For more on managing costs and risks in state and local government data centers, stay tuned for part two in this two-part series. In the meantime, download the Insight whitepaper, "Uniting Past, Present and Future Data Needs," for an in-depth look at handling growing IT demands, costs and risks.