How Search Adds Value to Legacy Data


Scalable search allows agencies to gradually pull structured and unstructured data into a modern environment.

The world is becoming more digital, and more reliant on data, yet much of our nation’s basic administrative functions are still slogging through cumbersome and outdated IT systems.

These legacy systems simply weren’t built for the data volumes, speed and scale of today’s missions yet still deliver critical services to citizens and federal personnel. We can’t rip and replace without causing harmful disruption, so we need to modernize while we continue to deliver in parallel. It’s a daunting challenge, but, for the federal government to successfully achieve its goal of keeping pace with technology, one that is critical to overcome.

To do so, agencies must be equipped with a new set of tools. The legacy challenge will not be overcome with legacy tools. Instead, federal agencies must shift toward using tools that serve as a veritable Swiss Army knife. These tools must be flexible enough to handle all types of data, fast enough to serve up results quickly, and easily scalable in order to drive analysis and insights not previously possible through a legacy system.

One of the simplest ways to start whittling away at the challenge of legacy technology is the implementation of modern search tools.

Tools for Modernization

Using the word “search” gets most people thinking about Google and how they use search in their day-to-day lives. The same basic tenets apply for search at a broad agency level, it’s merely a different view on doing so. Google is not the only search game in town. Beyond Google, there are search vendors offering tools that organizations use to affect enterprise-wide change through modernized IT systems, enhanced security practices, and much more.

Search tools are built with full-text search capabilities that not only ingest but also visualize and analyze data. Intuitive application programming interfaces help deliver that data through thoughtful visualization. Giving your data this kind of power and flexibility means people can aggregate mass datasets and easily make better-informed decisions. Anyone from a developer to a researcher can make sense of stored information.

One of the most federally-appealing features of search tools are the security protocols in place. Fine-grained controls at the field and document level allow users fast access to big data without compromising compliance regulations or carefully planned policies. Sophisticated authentication and authorization features can integrate with any identity management system and create role-based access. No one signs on or accesses information without the proper clearance.

The data can also come from any source: text, blog posts, tweets, news stories, email as well as machine data generated by information systems and internet-of-things devices. No matter the structure, a flexible search tool can find it, read it and display it.

An Incremental Approach

Policy makers, decision-makers, and agency leaders require instant, interactive access to federal data. Despite the urgency, there is still no time or money for a complete system overhaul. IT managers face large volumes of complex source code, and lengthy and expensive accreditation processes to make a change. All agencies are focusing on procuring and integrating cloud technology to more efficiently affect systemwide change. Tools that can better manage hybrid IT environments from a single console enable centralized control for scaling and evolving as quickly—though incrementally—as possible.

Scalable search allows agencies to gradually pull structured and unstructured data into a modern environment. It makes data available quickly and incrementally while developers build new applications. More data can be pulled into a new environment over time, and as fresh applications are built on top of it, decommissioning the legacy environment and moving toward a fully modernized system becomes easier.

IT modernization is a process that celebrates its incremental but impactful wins. The priority of all agencies is to quickly gather, query, and expose data without sacrificing compliance certifications, uprooting complex processes, or investing too much budget and resources on ramp up.

Deploying flexible software applications through a focused modernization effort is the most viable path to building a modern federal IT system. It is a path that fuels innovation and enhances operational performance across the public sector at a most critical juncture in its technological evolution.

George Young is vice president of federal at Elastic.

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