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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

6 tactics for agile, proactive network modernization

Today’s government networks require innovation to generate useful and actionable insights. This means digital transformation and forward thinking -- making the quantum leap from reactive to proactive. Cyber criminals, adversarial nation-states, international pandemics, global economic problems and calls for transparency are just some of the external drivers demanding faster, more proactive responses.

So, how do government agencies truly achieve this proactive digital transformation? Here are three overarching strategies that will produce tangible results.

  • Emphasize network monitoring to create a visibility architecture.
  • Consistently validate how the network and equipment are actually performing.
  • Ensure the infrastructure is agile enough to support the speed of business.

First and foremost, the network is changing. Users are more sensitive to network issues and digital business models must move from predictive to prescriptive analytics. Visibility must be an integral part of the network. It will improve security, optimize network and application performance and reduce troubleshooting. Fundamentally, visibility enables agencies to collect data when they want, how they want, using network management tools like traffic access points (TAPs) and network packet brokers (NPBs). How well is user experience monitored today and how much value is derived from agency data? Visibility answers these questions.

A second tactic is to continually test and analyze the agency network architecture -- because what can’t be measured can’t be improved.  This means validating the security, performance and stability of the design by using real-world traffic profiles, loads and threat vectors. After that, agencies should collect critical information on how systems will react once deployed so they can emphasize quality of experience and measure internal and external service-level agreements (especially for cloud networks). Not only will testing save time and costs, it will prevent surprises.

Lastly, infrastructure must be agile enough to support the speed of business ⁠— whatever users, adversaries and global pandemics throw at it. Agility comes through technology and process modernization.

As agency network operations teams modernize their networks, here are six tactics to help make the agency more proactive and agile:

1. Collect the right kind of data. Surgical precision is required to provide visibility into the network and how it actually behaves. NPBs and TAPs provide that power. Once this equipment is in place, agencies can change equipment without affecting the network.

2. Turn collected data into actionable information. Properly designed visibility architectures deliver the critical intelligence needed to boost network security protection, reduce troubleshooting costs, create architecture efficiencies and extend the life and utility of monitoring tools. For instance, context-aware data processing can expose indicators of compromise, provide geolocation of attack vectors and combat encrypted threats.

3. Ensure infrastructure is agile enough to support the speed of business. This includes upgrading monitoring processes to the 21st century. While change review boards provide necessary oversight, agencies must be able to add/remove security and monitoring tools without change board approvals to address network problems and security threats as they arise. This saves most IT departments hours, days, even weeks of time, reducing mean time to repair by up to 80%.

4. Optimize networks for telecommuting. As illustrated by the pandemic, employees need the flexibility to work remotely. Therefore, IT must optimize the network to ensure it can handle remote worker load. This means pre-testing any solution at full load to ensure that it works as designed ⁠-- with no surprises.

5. Deploy new technologies like application intelligence. Application intelligence provides contextual data information can help prevent many network problems and significantly reduce the impact of network problems that do occur. This includes usage forecasting and trend analysis that can reduce costs, especially for service outages.

6. Continue to embrace commercial off-the-shelf solutions. Custom solutions are expensive and take a long time to develop. In contrast, COTS solutions have a quicker time to market and costs are spread across multiple customers.

About the Author

Keith Bromley is the regional manager, government solutions, network applications and security group at Keysight Technologies.

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