A holistic end-to-end networking approach can help agencies meet growing digital and cybersecurity demands.
The rapid transition to remote work and constituent demands for improved user experiences are challenging government agencies to digitize services — from tax payments to employee benefits. At the same time, government databases are increasingly becoming major targets for individual and nation-backed attackers. Budgetary constraints and diminishing tech expertise only complicate matters as agencies struggle to balance cost- and performance-optimization alongside cyber resiliency.
So, how can government agencies accelerate digital transformation, defend against hackers, and support legacy applications and complex infrastructures?
The answer: a simpler to manage network infrastructure. Modern IT and communications can enable automation, improve performance and assure cyber resiliency at a time when government agencies are under unprecedented pressure to deliver services quickly and securely.
Take Stock of Assets
It takes more than technology, though, to simplify a network. A foundational step in any modernization effort is to conduct an inventory of a network’s physical assets, from routers to servers, and determine both the network elements and attached management software used to construct the network.
“In many cases, IT teams don’t know what’s in their network,” says Chris Ransbottom, federal sales executive at Ciena Corporation. “One of the first steps in simplifying a network is creating an accurate inventory of physical devices and the services being delivered.”
This end-to-end visibility allows IT teams to better optimize processes that span IT and network functions, Ransbottom explains. For example, underutilized and phantom assets can be removed, repurposed or upgraded to increase capacity and cut costs.
Another step toward simplifying the network involves converging multiple layers into a single platform. Maintaining support for age-old legacy formats is a complex and time-consuming endeavor. Often adding to a network’s complexity, says Jim Westdorp, chief technologist at Ciena Government Solutions, are “a whole host of protocols that aren’t supported anymore.” Luckily, he adds, “agencies can simplify the network by converging the number of layers it supports into fewer network element types."
For example, with converged packet (Ethernet, MPLS, IP, SR) networking equipment, government agencies can address growing demand for bandwidth without having to purchase and deploy additional equipment for each layer or service type. Packet-optical technologies also allow agency IT teams to deploy new services while avoiding the high costs associated with sprawling IP infrastructure.
Look to the Future
Even the most adaptive networks however must prepare for the future. How will network requirements evolve over the next few years? What kinds of services and service level agreements must a network support, and how might utilization of cloud services and mobility grow in a post-pandemic world?
Addressing these issues requires a simplified network capable of responding to real-time changes in demand. After all, provisioning, routing, and bringing new services to constituents is a labor-intensive task that can take months to years to complete. That it time many agencies can’t afford as they face a shifting landscape of user and mission needs.
“Some of the older network architectures were relatively fixed so if you wanted to change the amount of traffic flowing to a particular location, you actually had to do truck rolls,” says Westdorp.
Fortunately, software-defined intelligent automation changes that by digitally transforming key network components and processes. The result is a self-aware and adaptive network that is able to perform feats — from predicting traffic bottlenecks to redirecting traffic flows — without human intervention or costly truck rolls.
While in some ways, networks are becoming easier to manage, cyberthreats are only growing in sophistication. In fact, an IBM survey reveals that 73% of government employees are concerned about impending ransomware threats to cities across the country, and employees are more likely to fear cyberattacks than natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
The good news is a network can also serve as a powerful cyber defense tool. For example, a software-defined network (SDN) manages traffic securely by routing it intelligently across a variety of devices and connections. Unlike with hardware routers, switches and cabling, SDNs conduct cloud-based monitoring of the network, quickly detecting and responding to nefarious activities, such as breaches, reconnaissance and exploitations. In addition to automating the detection and response of threats, agencies can enhance cyber security by encrypting the data traversing the network.
Even the act of simplifying a network can come with complexities. For this reason, many agencies looking to accelerate mission response seek out professional service teams to help them throughout the entire network evolution lifecycle, from planning and solution design, to deployment and ongoing network management.
Keeping pace with constituents’ increasing demands for more secure and agile services isn’t easy. However, a holistic end-to-end networking approach — one that puts simplification, modernization and automation at its center – can ensure agencies meet growing digital demands while simultaneously fighting cybercrime and supporting legacy applications.
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.