When you think of all the things that go into driving mission success, where do you rank an agency’s data management infrastructure? While the Department of Defense needs sophisticated planes, ships, and weaponry and the Department of Health and Human Services needs doctors, medical devices, and research equipment, what lies at the heart of today’s mission success is actually data and the ability to move, analyze, and apply that information quickly to the situation at hand.
The idea of a data-driven government has been steadily growing and expanding over the last decade as agencies – and society at large – have embarked on a digital transformation. Despite the vast quantities of data being accumulated by agencies about mission-critical activities, several obstacles stand in the way of putting this data to work. From the silos of data locked away in data centers to the dearth of data scientists, it is one thing after the next.
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But like all things tech-related, a solution is always just around the corner. And for federal agencies looking to put their data to work, the solution to their data challenges has come in the form of accessible, fast, storage and innovative data management solutions that can scale at speed and take advantage of today’s hybrid architecture and nascent (AI) artificial intelligence revolution.
The need for scalable, fast, and simple data management solutions became particularly apparent on one day in mid-March this year when the federal government announced the immediate transition to telework for hundreds of thousands of agency employees. In a recent interview with MeriTalk, Shared Deputy CIO at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Beth Cappello stated that, “[p]rior to the pandemic, we might have 10,000 folks teleworking and using the VPN solution on any given day. Within a couple of days of social distancing in place, we had upwards of 70,000 personnel teleworking.”
Not only did this shift to telework involve an immediate need to support VDI capabilities to support remote work, but also other mission-critical activities that became even more significant in the face of the pandemic. For example, the DHS was responsible for supporting FEMA as it expedited the importation of essential PPE supplies and for collaborating with intelligence agencies at home and internationally to counter the increase in bad actors seeking to take advantage of the disruption to launch cyber attacks.
“One of the capabilities we provide at DHS headquarters is the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), an information sharing platform. We’ve seen a 200 percent increase in use and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is playing an important role with respect to cybersecurity. On May 5, CISA and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre released a joint advisory for international healthcare and medical research organizations that are vulnerable to attacks from Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups,” Cappello said.
Given the likelihood that this pandemic-driven disruption of normal operations for agencies will last for several more months, and likely a year, or more, the ability to leverage data to support the current mission and adapt to new challenges is even more important. “The way that agencies will do this is not only by understanding that data needs to move quickly using Flash, but also that they need to be able to treat storage and compute capacity as-a-Service,” explained Brian Carpenter, Senior Director Flashblade Technology, at Pure Storage. “We’ve clearly move beyond pilot projects and are looking at transformational projects not only for supporting mass teleworking and expanded VDI capabilities.”
With federal agencies already re-imagining how employees work and deliver on the mission, now is an ideal opportunity to build a solid foundation in robust data management to support not only this moment in time, but also provide the foundation for future data-driven transformations. The benefits of being able to harness the power of data and apply it quickly to solve mission-critical challenges is one of lessons learned from the pandemic.