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Government Network Painpoints

September 08, 2014

Secure, high-speed networks may offer many benefits to modern IT environments in the public sector, but there’s a flipside to the rising status of networks: Managers and technology practitioners find themselves in an ongoing struggle to keep up with bandwidth and reliability demands while simultaneously addressing budget realities.

This is part three of a four-part series based on a strategy paper from the Center for Digital Government on how high-performance networks power the move to modern government. You can read part two or download the complete strategy paper as a PDF.

Secure, high-speed networks may offer many benefits to modern IT environments in the public sector, but there’s a flipside to the rising status of networks: Managers and technology practitioners find themselves in an ongoing struggle to keep up with bandwidth and reliability demands while simultaneously addressing budget realities.

Bandwidth. Not surprisingly, higher data volumes are driving demand for network services. Thirty-two percent of survey respondents said mobile and stationary devices are placing the highest demand on IT networks, followed closely by video traffic. Additionally, while application virtualization and data center consolidation increase efficiencies and reduce costs, they require a strong network foundation to succeed. Nineteen percent of respondents said virtualization was driving the highest demand for network resources, while 15 percent said data center consolidation was the culprit. But regardless of the specific cause, the message is clear: Bandwidth demands are on a trajectory to increase, likely considerably. The capacity available today will likely fall short in the near future as new applications and services arrive. This requires a forward-looking approach to network planning. As one survey participant noted, “Network managers need to pass the ball to be where the receiver is running to, not where he is now.”

Reliability and continuity. IT officials see networks as a way to provide more and better services to constituents. However, to do this effectively, reliability of the network is key. When ranking the highest priorities for their network environments, survey respondents overwhelmingly agreed that consistent availability was by far the most important. However, that goal is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve in an era of ubiquitous mobility. Survey respondents were nearly unanimous in their view that the complexities of maintaining mobility and wireless capabilities during a disaster or security threat has become increasingly important for continuity planning. And while a solid majority of the respondents — 69 percent — said their organization has a robust business continuity plan in place, less than half reported that the plan has been fully tested in the past year. As new services, such as mobile applications, constantly evolve, network contingency plans require frequent updates and testing to ensure they’re still effective.

Modernization. For most organizations, the evolution of networks is a moving target. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents said their networks needed to be improved or upgraded, largely to replace old equipment and hardware.



Interestingly, 67 percent of respondents said their IT networks had been upgraded within the past year — a testament to how fast technology is evolving. The city of Atlanta is part of the modernization movement. ”The city will be upgrading approximately 78 percent of its core infrastructure for [voice over IP telephone] deployment throughout the city,” Small says. ”This city will attempt to consolidate all its disparate phone systems to one common system.” But while modernization is a high priority for many public sector organizations, the upgrade path is strewn with obstacles, including some venerable challenges, according to respondents to the CDG survey. Fifty-seven percent identified budget or funding shortfalls as a major stumbling block, while 20 percent cited a lack of readily available, certified technical workers.


Next: Developing a Strategic Plan for Government Networks.

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