Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Virtualization brings agencies a wealth of benefits

On the surface it might seem that the benefits of virtualization for large government agencies are obvious, but they are far broader and more far reaching than initially appears. With the adoption of virtualization technologies spreading throughout federal government, virtualization is no longer an IT dream but a reality that is driving efficiency and savings in an austere budget era.

The growing use of virtualization is reflected in a new survey of federal, state and local IT professionals by the 1105 Public Sector Media Group. The survey bears proof that the benefits of virtualization are well understood by government IT executives involved in the planning of key virtualization initiatives, particularly server and desktop virtualization.

The survey revealed that the dominant virtualization deployments across the federal, state and local levels of government are server virtualization (i.e., private cloud environment) and virtual desktop interface (VDI).

A key finding of the survey is that 54 percent of respondents said that their agency has deployed a server virtualization initiative. Of those that have not yet deployed such an initiative, 23 percent said their agency is planning to do so within the next year, and 16 percent said their agency is investigating such a deployment.

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These days IT professionals are keenly aware that the practice of acquiring more hardware to keep pace with an agency’s expanding data processing needs is an untenable and unsustainable practice. This is reflected in the fact that 46 percent in the survey agreed that increasing their agency’s data center infrastructure by deploying more power and expensive servers is no longer a viable strategy.

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As for VDI deployments, 48 percent of respondents indicated that their agency already has an active VDI deployment, 15 percent said that their agency is planning to do so within the next year, and 28 percent said their agency is investigating such a deployment.

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Beyond the obvious cost and data center consolidation benefits of server virtualization are other tangible benefits, according to the Aberdeen, a market research and consulting firm.

Organizations using server virtualization can dramatically reduce their capital expenditures and cut their operational expenses because of lower power and cooling requirements, and also savings on real estate occupied by data centers, according to the Aberdeen Group’s 2013 study, “Virtualization: Gateway to Business Continuity.”

Less apparent benefits but nonetheless significant additional benefits from server virtualization are improved business continuance and disaster recovery preparedness, as well as reduced application downtime, notes Aberdeen Group analysts.

One of the most high-profile server virtualization projects is the Defense Department’s internal cloud services initiative known as milCloud, which is being overseen by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The milCloud initiative is being undertaken to reduce costs and increase control, flexibility and security of classified and controlled unclassified information for the military services and mission partners.

So far, two Defense Enterprise Computing centers, one in Oklahoma City and another in Kansas City, Mo., have implemented milCloud “as a government-operated private cloud internal to the DOD’s unclassified network, the NIPRnet,” DISA CTO David Mihelcic recently told FCW.

DOD executives see milCloud as a catalyst for greater adoption of cloud across the department.

“The reality is that if we make it simple for DOD users to transition to the cloud, there are benefits to the entire cloud industry moving forward,” Mihelcic said. “If we make the burden of cloud adoption go down, there is room in this space for lots of different players in lots of different technologies.”

The military services also are pushing virtualization within their technology ranks. For example, the Army’s Program Executive Office for Aviation continues to refine its virtual desktop infrastructure pilot project through the gradual expansion of “blocks” of converged storage and server hardware. The new units require a much smaller amount of rack space than what initially had been set aside for blade server and the requisite storage area network architecture. PEO Aviation’s VDI pilot serves about 250 users and includes about 400 virtual desktops.

The benefits of converged storage include streamlined acquisition, reduced hardware footprint and simplified administration.

“Converged storage is a whole lot easier and a better solution because, when you get it, everything you need is right there,” said Alan Marett, a PEO Aviation server network team told GCN.

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Methodology and survey demographics

Between February 21st and March 1st, 2014, 107 subscribers of FCW, GCN and other Public Sector Media 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 Public Sector Media 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 Public Sector Media Group Content Solutions, please email us at PSMGCustomMedia@1105media.com