Technology visionaries from across federal agencies recently met with some of the brightest minds from Brocade at Federal Forum 2014 to discuss how the government was transforming – from IT networks to culture to productivity. Across the board, agencies like Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, U.S. Postal Service, and more are launching technology initiatives that will improve both efficiency and the ability to effectively achieve their missions.
Chip Copper, Global Solutions Architect at Brocade, said that much of government transformation is simply changing perspectives and thinking outside of the box. We had the opportunity to talk to Chip after his panel session about IT transformation and future investments in technologies that will have a strong return on investment. Here is what he had to say:
Federal Technology Insider (FTI): What is IT transformation and what does it mean for federal government agencies?
Chip Copper (CC): For me, IT transformation means changing not only the way that IT enables agencies to meet their mission, but also what can be expected from technology in terms of its capabilities. Right now, technology operates on a “what you see is what you get” basis. What I mean, is that you drop an app on infrastructure and it delivers. What transformative technologies enable is flexibility. Depending on the IT environment and the team managing and maintaining it, there are several options. IT administrators can choose to ignore the additional capabilities or leverage these new functionalities. Equally, with innovative programs, like FedRAMP, federal agencies are able to leverage approved products and services from the private sector that have previously been unavailable because of security concerns about commercial off-the-shelf products. These programs enable government agencies to become nimble and faster to respond to changing IT environments to achieve their mission.
FTI: What are some of the key transformative technologies for federal agencies?
CC: The cloud is the grandparent of this generation of transformative technologies. But what’s really disrupting IT environments are a trio of technologies. First up are analytics – that is, the ability to know what is happening on the network, where the information is going, how it’s being used, where bottlenecks are created, and so on. We just heard from John Edgar, Vice President of IT at the United States Postal Service about how his team is using information about the USPS network to reduce costs by eliminating bottlenecks in the mail processing portion of the mail delivery system – and that’s a great use of IT analytics. Next up is software-defined networking, or SDN, which gives an IT team the ability to constantly evolve, or more basically tear down and rebuild their network without ever experiencing downtime. And, finally, it’s network functions virtualization, or NFV, which provides the ability to replace a physical item, such as a router or load balancer, with a virtual one. In much the same way as SDN allows unparalleled flexibility, being able to leverage virtual devices on the network will introduce additional efficiencies, as well as budget savings
FTI: Where will federal agencies gain the most from the investments they have made in transformative technologies?
CC: My advice here is pretty simple: Turn on the functionality! For example, Brocade has been shipping SDN-capable devices for many years now, but the functionality is often turned off because our end users haven’t had the trained IT personnel to be able to use it. So, for those who have capable IT teams, flip the switch and turn it on! For those who don’t, invest some time in next-generation IT training and then turn on those functionalities to see some really impressive benefits. Many times, the biggest step is just being willing to try some promising new technologies.