Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Virtualization looms large in network planning

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Experts often say that cloud and virtualization technology are two of the big contributors to the complexity of the enterprise. As it turns out, however, they also might be part of the solution.

A recent survey of government IT professionals found that agencies are increasingly interested in leveraging cloud- and virtualization-based solutions as a way to manage network resources more efficiently.

One emerging option is the software-defined or virtual network. In this approach, the control plane, which determines which path data will travel is moved from the hardware and into software. This makes it possible to manage various network devices from a centralized software controller, giving IT managers much more flexibility in how they allocate and reallocate those resources.

SDN is still a relatively new technology, but the survey, conducted by the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, found that interest in it is growing. Only 18 percent of respondents said their agencies had fully adopted SDN, but 48 percent said their agencies are in the process of adopting it, and another 26 percent said their agencies are investigating it.

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However, while SDN is promising, it does take some preparation, wrote Andre Kindness, an infrastructure and operations analyst with Forrester Research, a market research and consulting firm, in a recent blog post.

Kindness said organizations should “industrialize” operations by standardizing their operational processes and skillsets around the Information Technology Infrastructure Library of concepts best practices. Additionally, organizations should invest in good network monitoring tools, so that they have better infrastructure visibility.

The survey also found that agencies were adopting network management applications tailored to the cloud-based environment. All told, 43 percent of respondents said their agencies had adopted cloud-specific network management applications, with another 39 percent planning to do so within the year.

But there is an even more promising prospect on the horizon: Cloud-based network management tools for managing the whole environment. These tools are designed to allow organizations to manage various networks from a central location, possibly through a Software-as-a-Service application.

In the early going, many large organizations have not adopted cloud-based network management tools, saying they lack high-end management options, according to the Aberdeen Group, a market research and consulting firm. However, that is quickly beginning to change.

In a recent study, the Aberdeen Group found that organizations using cloud-based tools were more likely to adopt the kind of good network management disciplines associated with “strong enterprise-class network implementations.”

For example, compared to other organizations, cloud-based network management tool users…

  • …Were 20 percent more likely to be preventing unauthorized network access.
  • …Secured guest network access 40 percent more often.
  • …Enforced mobile endpoint security compliance at a 55 percent higher rate.
  • “Looking at this data, we see that businesses that do cloud-based network management aren’t small fries with limited skills or capabilities,” the report stated. “Instead they are leaders when it comes to securing, understanding and managing their networks.”

    Methodology and survey demographics

    Between February 21st and March 1st, 2014, 107 subscribers of FCW, GCN and other 1105 Government Information Group publications responded to an e-mail survey about networking and storage trends in government agencies. Survey respondents were comprised of those involved with networking and storage operations for their department or agency. Beacon Technology Partners developed the methodology, fielded the survey and compiled the results.

    Approximately 88% of respondents were technology decision-makers (CIOs or other IT managers or professionals), while 12 percent were senior managers, program managers or other business decision-makers. Approximately 67 percent came from the federal government (34 percent civilian, 33 percent defense) and 33 percent from state or local government agencies.

    About this Report

    This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at GIGCustomMedia@1105govinfo.com