It’s time for unification across federal networks, starting with IT operations and security (Photo by ESB Professional/ShutterStock)

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Unification across federal networks starts with IT operations and security

This last election cycle was one of the most contentious in recent memory. Despite these challenges, the people of our nation understand the importance of unification and the need -- even as they struggle to understand one another's views -- to come together and work together for the good of the country.

Within federal agencies, those involved in the sometimes contentious and always competitive battle for resources and respect between IT operations and security could take a page from those political post-election unification plans. Both groups concentrate on different aspects of network health, and left alone, each would pull the network in a different direction. But what people don’t realize in the heat of the struggle is that IT operations and security are two sides of the same coin. One without the other is simply a disaster waiting to happen.

In many ways, IT operations and network security are a microcosm of a divided nation. The former’s main concern is providing open access to network systems and resources. Operations managers want all users to have enough bandwidth and infrastructure to complete their tasks. That means fewer help desk calls and more satisfied users.

While IT operations pushes for open platforms, network security advocates locking down systems as much as possible, deploying firewalls to keep core assets safe and restricting network access and resources to heavily vetted users. For this team, constant visibility is essential to detect signs of a network compromise from the inside.

Such a protected network would be incredibly secure, satisfying network security, but probably at the expense of usability for which IT operations passionately fights. If users can’t reliably make use of a network resource because of over burdensome security schemes, it won’t be much of an asset for the agency it serves. To bridge the chasm and stop the divide, the two must meet half way.

Getting political opponents on the same page in Washington may prove difficult, but uniting IT operations and security across federal networks does not need to be a Herculean feat. It can start by providing a common platform that gives each group visibility into what the other is doing. This platform can become the bridge that paves the way for future collaboration. If implementing a certain new network protection feature would seriously degrade performance, security managers can see a reason to modify their approach. Likewise, if IT operations can observe that a new resource would be a prime target for hackers, they then have reason to work with security to find a safer way to deploy it.

Once operations  and security get past initial reservations about collaborating, both groups will see the advantages of including the other in decisions or at least seeking out their opinions. This will likely happen much more quickly than expected -- after all, both groups value network health above all else.

And there is even better news. While getting operations and security to collaborate will help network productivity today, an even greater payoff will become apparent as the network expands and security and operations teams collaborate from the design phase of every new project. Working together, they can more efficiently address both security and operational concerns from the beginning instead of trying to modify existing processes after the fact.

The best path forward for federal networks is to form a baseline of cooperation with a unified platform that provides visibility for both groups. Then both sides can learn the value of working with the other, putting the network in good hands for today and the future.

If our nation can follow a cooperative path, our future will remain bright despite a contentious election season. It’s time for our nation and our networks to come together.

About the Author

Travis Rosiek is CTO at Tychon.

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