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Re-imagining Government Data Centers: Part 1 of 2

2 Apr 2016 by Shay Moser

For federal agencies, the massive growth of data in recent years has dramatically impacted the functions of government data centers — putting a premium on storage and security, while working within budget constraints. When you're seeking to improve data center performance, here's how to initiate the process.

From an agency leadership perspective, balancing IT and other department requirements with constituent needs comes down to storage and security, while heeding the rallying cry to “do more with less.” From C-level information executives and data center leadership, to senior program managers, it's all about working effectively and efficiently. As the volumes of data continue to increase, agencies need to re-imagine how their data centers can manage that data while keeping it safe.

On the storage front, government is often required to store data for many years; from agency to agency, durations generally range from three to 10 years, and sometimes longer. Behind the scenes, that data has never been more enticing to domestic and international criminal elements. In 2014, Intel Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies partnered on a report that calculated the estimated global loss from cybercrime at $575 billion annually, a number which has surely grown since.

The positive news is that there are more and better options than ever to accommodate government laws, rules and regulations, while serving the nation's citizens securely and efficiently. In this whitepaper, we'll discuss the key trends and solutions federal agencies need to be aware of when initiating a search to improve government data center functionality.

What pressures are facing agency data centers?

While the granular challenges in today's federal government IT environment are as diverse as the agencies and technologies managing them, the primary ones affecting the big picture include:

Exponential data growth — A wide range of technologies — particularly the proliferation of mobile devices and video cameras — requires connectivity, network expansion, additional servers, storage, backup, etc.

Increased security demands — Beyond the hundreds of billions of dollars in cybercrime losses, government agencies are often handling data that is sensitive and valuable beyond the monetary figures: Social Security numbers, fingerprints, and private, protected identities.

Legacy IT systems — Older, unsupported systems such as Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP are version-locked due to homegrown apps and software. Migrating to new platforms requires time and budget, as well as a commitment to implementation, training and management.

Financial considerations — Federal IT departments are being charged with reducing/converting large capital investments (i.e., capital expenditures) to flexible, lower-cost monthly bills (i.e., operating expenditures).

Lack of alignment/capabilities — The IT component is faced with ever-increasing demands from the agencies themselves as well as constituents, but the ability to hire/retain/replace staff is hindered by bureaucracy.

Mission-critical step 1: Understanding the scope of your data center needs

Increasingly, improving your data center management means virtualizing everything and controlling it with software. In simple terms, virtualization enables the expansion of data storage capacity while reducing infrastructure costs — in the process, eliminating concerns about electricity loads or hardware decay. Executed correctly, the result is more storage, better security, and improved speed for lower or comparable expenditures.

Cloud-based solutions can also support agencies in accommodating the trend toward a more mobile federal workforce doing work on smartphones and tablets in addition to agency PCs. The cloud can foster federal employee collaboration by incorporating file sync and share options, multiplatform Web conferencing, instant messaging and hosted email solutions — all through a secure platform.

What to expect

A qualified vendor should be expected to develop a comprehensive understanding of your current unified fabric, computer, desktop and virtualization infrastructure. From there, they will be able to create customized strategies to deliver an architecture and complete road map that addresses your agency, technical and data center requirements. Any enterprise storage solutions must fit the needs of your environment today in addition to being flexible enough to adapt to future requirements.

Step two of this two-step process will be discussed at length in the next blog post. In the meantime, download our whitepaper, “Exploring Your Options: Reimagining Government Data Centers,” to discover best practices for storage and security programs.