How can government agencies address changes in network demand without heavy capital investment? The answer involves a new approach to networking.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early March, agencies everywhere faced huge spikes in network demand as IT teams worked round-the-clock to roll out new services and transition to remote operations.
While some agencies managed to adapt initially, it became increasingly clear during these challenging times that agencies need greater visibility and flexibility from their network resources. Unfortunately, many networks are not designed to adjust to such changing demands. Legacy systems and protocols prevent rapid scaling and adjustment of a network’s capabilities. Meanwhile, legacy architectures often require IT teams to manually set up, revise and tear down even the simplest services.
So how can government agencies address changes in network demand without heavy capital investment? The answer, according to Jim Westdorp, chief technologist at Ciena Government Solutions, involves a new approach to networking.
“An Adaptive Network is a closed-loop system comprising flexible hardware, analytics software and an orchestration engine that can meet complex mission network demands and provide the business of government with greater agility,” says Westdorp.
Ciena’s Adaptive Network enables faster and more efficient delivery of government services, while encouraging greater inter-agency collaboration, with three key elements.
1. A Programmable Infrastructure
No longer should government agencies rely on fixed-function hardware appliances to meet constituent needs. Reacting to changing network demands requires a programmable infrastructure that can both provide advanced network telemetry and adjust to meet changing capacity needs.
Ciena’s Adaptive Network accomplishes this in a few ways. First, IT teams can adapt quickly to changing bandwidth requirements by using variable bit-rate optics to tune the network to different speeds, depending on current needs. Secondly, software can dynamically route wavelengths across different paths depending on network conditions and the needed service level agreements.
Because programmable infrastructure is highly instrumented, with the ability to export real-time network performance data, agencies “can get an excellent indication of not only the health of their network equipment, but the health of the fiber optic cable infrastructure as well,” says Westdorp. “Essentially, the network acts as a sensor that informs operators about its current state and what future service capabilities remain.”
Together, these capabilities allow agencies to change and reconfigure the network on the fly, allowing it to be run at higher levels of efficiency and minimizing the need to add new equipment.
2. Software Control and Smart Automation
Robust automation capabilities can reduce operational complexities and improve efficiencies at scale. Accelerating the speed of service delivery, however, requires more than simple automation. For this reason, Ciena’s Adaptive Network integrates software-defined control and orchestration with big data analytics, allowing agencies to use deep knowledge about the network to more intelligently automate services and operations. This powerful combination of technologies achieves three primary goals:
- Simplifies the end-to-end management and automation of network services across physical and virtual networks, freeing IT teams to focus on core competencies
- Automates the delivery and lifecycle management of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)-based network services so that services can be scaled without additional appliances
- Automates the complete service delivery lifecycle across packet-optical networks
The result is a network that not only automatically reacts to change, but also adapts to events as they occur in real-time.
3. Analytics and Intelligence
Although today’s vast volumes of data can add complexity to infrastructure, they can also provide agencies with treasure troves of information that, when harnessed correctly, can improve network performance.
For example, in the case of Ciena’s Adaptive Network, the Network Health Predictor application monitors the state of the network and the demands placed on it. It then collects this information to predict network element failures before they occur.
“If Network Health Predictor detects a pattern trending over time that might lead to a network failure, it will flag the item, allowing an operator to make critical changes proactively before the network fails,” Westdorp explains.
In addition to accurately predicting potential network problems and anticipating trends, Westdorp says analytics allow “the network to become more reliable and more available, which is important for the critical infrastructure that modern network provide”
Today’s networks must take advantage of automation and become more responsive, especially during these times of uncertainty. But automation is only one piece of the puzzle. Yesteryear’s static network must evolve into a dynamic, programmable environment driven by analytics and intelligence in order for agencies to securely and in real-time adapt to emerging constituent and mission needs.
Learn more about how Ciena can help your agency craft and maintain a holistic end-to-end networking approach.
This content is made possible by our sponsor Ciena; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of NextGov’s editorial staff.