Automation Nation: Accelerating Agility in Government with AI

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COVID-19 continues to test the capabilities of government agencies. As constituents rely on fast and easy access to services — from emergency benefits to health advice — public sector organizations are rising to the challenge. Meanwhile, remote government workers require innovative and collaborative tools and communication infrastructure to stay productive. What’s more, as cybersecurity risks increase, regulatory and security-related concerns multiply.

Meeting all of these demands requires agile, flexible and adaptable IT infrastructure.

“Suddenly, the benefits of an adaptive network — being able to scale quickly and manage networks more simply — has become more obvious than ever,” says Jim Westdorp, chief technologist at Ciena Government Solutions. 

But creating networks capable of keeping up with a changing world can be difficult. As it is, only 14 percent of public service organizations have focused more than 60 percent of their funding on agile practices, according to a report from Accenture.

The Answer Is Automation

Fortunately, there is a way to accelerate agility without increasing operational costs. Enter: automation. By automating critical processes, government agencies can continuously maximize network efficiency and service agility.

At the core of automation are some of today’s most innovative technology capabilities. Take Ciena’s Intelligent Automation Portfolio, for example. While some automation tools still require the manual configuration of IT platforms — a process that can be lengthy and time-consuming — Ciena’s software leverages Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) to modernize and transform operations across IT and network infrastructure, without human intervention.

Artificial Intelligence is another technology that can significantly enhance the power of automation. Case in point: Ciena’s Blue Planet UAA technology provides multi-domain and multi-layer assurance and AI-powered analytics, enabling network operators to extract real-time insights on how the network and its services and applications are performing.

Together, these technologies can abstract network complexity and deliver end-to-end service automation across multiple network layers, physical and virtual domains, and technologies.

Combating the Bandwidth Blues

Automation also offers key operational advantages for today’s time-strapped government IT teams. These days, traffic patterns are becoming more unpredictable and traffic spikes are becoming more pronounced as constituents inundate government agencies with online queries and more employees access networks remotely. Worse yet, deploying a new service — or modifying the bandwidth on an existing one — can take weeks to complete, causing significant delays and a poor end-user experience.

Indeed, automation can address these operational challenges by automating the provisioning of bandwidth-on-demand services, providing them with the flexibility to adapt to evolving demands quickly.

“Bandwidth is one of the biggest use cases for automation,” says Chris Ransbottom, federal sales executive at Ciena Corporation. “It’s about the ability to turn up and turn down capacity and move capacity around.”

The result, he says, is an agency that’s better equipped to respond to citizen needs the moment they arise, thereby providing a more positive experience.

Better yet, by providing a microservices-based architecture, Ciena’s approach to automation reduces the time and effort needed to capture the steps required to automate a process. By relying on analytics and machine learning, the platform nearly eliminates multiple manual processes. Instead, agency IT teams are guided as to where automation should be applied and which existing automation capabilities can be reused.

Future-proof Your Agency

Even the savviest government agency IT teams, however, face uncertainty in today’s world. Network demands are only increasing, requiring more hands-on-deck to manage its capabilities. The problem, warns Westdorp, is “if a network doubles in capacity, most government agencies won’t be able to afford to double their staff.”

The good news is automation can support network growth while eliminating the need for additional IT manpower by “effectively managing increases in scale and demand for greater network flexibility and adaptability,” says Westdorp. “Automation really allows a network to scale in such a way that it’s sustainable going forward.”

Automation also prepares government agencies for the future by supporting a wide range of network bandwidth needs as some employees will eventually return to work, while others plan to remain at home.

“There will be a hybrid environment where bandwidth will be more distributed, especially as traffic moves through security stacks in a centralized fashion and then out to a commercial cloud environment,” says Ransbottom. As a result, he adds, “bandwidth requirements will continue to increase, as well as be in different places of the network.”

Automation can support this new world of work, preparing agencies for the future while cutting costs and accelerating agility.

Learn more about how Ciena Government Solutions can help your agency embrace the new world of work.

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.

NEXT STORY: 3 Ways Adaptive Networks Can Help Federal Leaders Increase Agility During Challenging Times

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