Change is now a constant in the federal government IT environment. No two agencies are exactly the same and the world they operate in is evolving rapidly. Government IT executives are called to deliver an agile, secure environment that adapts with mission needs.
“Every agency is at a different place in the journey,” said Zain Ahmed, Lumen senior vice president for Public Sector. “We engage them where they are so they can move forward. Listening is one of our key skills.”
The range of agency missions and charters affect architectural and organizational decisions as executives look to guide their current IT staffs and environments into the future.
Partners become fellow travelers
Adaptability is key for both the agency and their partners. Campbell Palmer, senior director of Public Sector technical solutions at Lumen, outlined three broad categories of engagement – what he calls “the ladder of engagement” – that Lumen has invested in to drive effective partnerships.
- Self-service: The simple things need to be procured as simply as possible. Lumen developed application programming interfaces (APIs) for many of its products and services so they could be configured by a knowledgeable agency IT person through a customer portal. Human intervention is still an option but for some this DIY approach is quite comfortable and the fastest way to achieve that upgrade.
- Shared responsibility: Mission-driven planning, execution and management are far more sophisticated than commodities. Lumen platform architects work with agency IT staff to assess long-term needs, develop a program roadmap and design underlying architectures for implementation. Management can be shared, with agency and Lumen teams working seamlessly on their assigned responsibilities.
- Managed services: Streamlining agency IT operations and technology can be accomplished through managed services provided by industry partners like Lumen. This creates flexibility to deploy agency IT staff to other areas of the mission.
A given program might pull from all three categories of engagement depending on the agency’s organizational desired outcomes, underlying architectures, and operational management concerns.
“Agencies like having the ladder,” Ahmed said. “They can reach as high on that ladder as they need to achieve their mission.”
Staying nimble with a platform approach
Modern, mission-driven challenges are seldom addressed by a single technology or service. New approaches such as Secure Access Services Edge, or SASE, are not single products or services, even though some might talk about them that way. Many such new developments are solution frameworks encompassing several technologies that must be integrated.
“By investing in an integrated platform, Lumen can bolster our capabilities with an ecosystem of best-of-breed third parties,” Palmer said. “We can listen to what the customer really needs and identify the right solution and integrate it for them.”
Seeing the threats before they wreak havoc
Security concerns benefit from this platform and ecosystem approach.
“There is an intersection of platform and security that is inherent in how we look at the world,” Ahmed said. “It’s all about the protection of data and the management of data.”
For instance, the Biden Administration’s Zero Trust mandate encourages agencies to authenticate and verify every user and every device, moving security to the edge. This is especially critical as organizations embrace a hybrid workforce and the traditional network perimeter continues to dissolve.
With one of the largest networks in the world, coupled with Black Lotus Labs® intelligence, Lumen scours the network to identify malicious activity and potential threats as they emerge. Black Lotus Labs can identify where some attacks are coming from even before the customer notices any impact. This threat intelligence is integrated in a connected security approach to give agencies what they need to proactively head off or mitigate attacks.
Security Operations Centers (SOC) are also an important part of a proactive, holistic approach to agency security. However, top-level security talent is hard to find. The ability to offer SOC as a service, often referred to as SOCaaS, provides visibility across an agency into cyber vulnerabilities and provides fully managed cybersecurity threat detection and incident management support. Lumen’s SOCaaS builds on its existing federal compliant SOCs for customers of Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Service (MTIPS) and Trusted Internet Connections (TIC 3.0). This approach offers more agile response, while alleviating budget and talent acquisition concerns. It also transforms what could be a huge capital expense for agencies into an operating expense they can plan and budget for.
The journey continues
The government IT journey will never end. That’s why Ahmed urges agencies to think about adaptability in the network for what lies ahead. There will always be new capabilities to integrate, new demands, new mandates and – unfortunately – new threats to guard against.
That’s why it’s important to work with fellow travelers.
This content is made possible by our sponsor Lumen Technologies; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Nextgov’s editorial staff.