The federal government can save $17 billion on IT costs when it looks to upgrade its networks by adopting a handful of straightforward measures, particularly by ending the practice of specifying “brand name or equal” in acquisitions.
So said Anthony Robbins, vice president of Brocade Federal, at the Federal Forum last month.
“Get yourself to where you design your network for multiple vendors,” he told the audience. “If you do that, there’s an opportunity for 25 percent savings.”
Robbins also advocated for putting an end to acquisitions that require proprietary hardware and protocols, calling for federal procurements to embrace open standards.
If agencies would do that, “You will have created [the structure] to introduce software-defined networks,” he said. “And software-defined networks will be to system architecture what virtualization was to data centers.”
In an interview after his speech, Robbins elaborated on his remarks.
“The network infrastructure that supports the federal government was designed 20 years ago, put in place 15 years ago – it’s just a big outdated road system,” Robbins said.
He’s comfortable with the $17 billion savings estimate. Brocade undertook its own research to identify potential cost savings the government could realize as it upgrades its IT infrastructure, then ran its findings through Gartner’s model for multivendor networks to confirm the savings could be achieved, Robbins said.
“We documented what customers would have to go through to get to those savings. Then we gave [our findings] to an external research firm and said, ‘Go vet this information. Here’s our data, here’s Gartner’s,’” he said. “They interviewed 208 government employees who identified even more savings.”
Robbins also urged the government to expand the use of “X-as-a-service” models, applying it to networks.
“One of the things gaining the most amount of attention right now [is] the mechanism to acquire network infrastructure, the way the government can rent network infrastructure,” he said. “It touches the acquisition community [but] it doesn’t change the system. It’s demonstrated an ability to save a ton of money.”
Robbins cited FEMA’s need to ramp up in a specific location after a disaster as a perfect example of how the agency can expand network capabilities for a brief time. “As they got to the end point, where they had successfully managed their response to the natural disaster, they could shut down the network, as opposed to giving someone $5 to $10 million to acquire capital equipment.”
He said being able to rent can also help an agency or office that is planning a move to a new building but needs upgraded capabilities in the interim.
The push to upgrade government networks – affordably – is going to become even more critical as data generation proliferates. What’s called “Big Data” today is going to be dwarfed by what’s coming.
“The ‘Big Data’ that we have today was created by people interaction. Tomorrow’s data is going to be created by sensors – you’re going to have devices in buildings, cars, streets, warehouses,” Robbins said. “So where the world’s data was restricted in its ability to grow because of the people interface, tomorrow’s data is not. All of this stuff has to sit on some network that moves the data.
“The network is going to be the enabler of the IT enterprise of tomorrow. It’s the bottleneck right now,” he said.