If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that future-proofing is an essential activity for each federal agency and for the federal government as a whole. While agencies did a commendable job responding to the quick pivots necessitated by remote work, telehealth provisions, and other mission-critical changes, the measures that were taken in 2020 can’t be seen as an end-state. The federal government should consider continuing to invest in IT to prepare for whatever comes next – be that another pandemic, a major cyberattack, or another significant push in IT evolution.
As federal IT leaders reflect on not just the recent past, but on the broader IT modernization journey, it would seem that one major lesson learned has been to think critically about IT investments to avoid creating IT silos and a new generation of legacy IT. For Lamont Copeland, Director of Federal Solutions Architecture at Verizon, ensuring that federal agencies are continually moving forward and modernizing their IT infrastructure is key to helping to future-proof the federal government. “It’s vital that agencies create a flexible foundation for their IT infrastructure,” he shared in a recent conversation. “In practical terms, this means not only building a network that is flexible, but one that can be easily managed and updated without requiring significant retooling, downtime, or expense.”
It would seem then that software defined networking as part of managed network service is a foundation of continuous modernization. “It’s particularly important right now that agencies get comfortable with managed network services because it’s unlikely that any agency has the personnel or the bandwidth to keep up with what’s coming down the pike,” Copeland shared. “With the mission evolving as quickly as the IT, agencies need to be able to focus on their unique circumstances and partner with a trusted advisor to ensure they have access to the technology that will support the only goal that matters…mission success.”
As agencies look to roll out 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC) and consider how to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into the mission, it’s an ideal time to consider how these technologies will mesh with the service platform and help ensure that the two are aligned to optimize these investments. “It would be disastrous for an agency to invest in 5G, MEC, AI, and ML, only to have the network falter,” noted Copeland. “Managed network services help ensure that the user has the bandwidth and flexibility to take advantage of these truly revolutionary technologies by ensuring that data sources can connect regardless of location, that data can move at speed and scale, and that the customer gets the outcome they expect from their investment.”
But excitement at game-changing technology is typically tempered by trepidation at discovering the costs. Copeland, however, says that agency IT leaders don’t need to gird themselves for sticker shock. “Managed network services aren’t only a disruptor on the IT side of the house, but also for finance and procurement too,” he shared. “MNS represents a paradigm shift for the government. It’s a different cost model where you’re not paying for boxes, or for a pre-set amount of capacity, but you’re paying based on what is actually consumed by the agency.”
In short, managed network services help remove obstacles, such as prohibitive costs, long acquisition, and procurement cycles, and staffing challenges, that have plagued agencies and stood in the way of digital transformation efforts. “With costs shifted from CAPEX to OPEX, agencies gain significant flexibility, drive down costs, and can help eliminate surprise charges that can devastate budgets,” noted Copeland. “Moreover, upgrades and updated equipment no longer need their own lengthy procurement cycles, and the in-house IT is augmented with a team of technology experts available 24×7 in the partner’s NOC, which not only provides support, but also ensures continuity of knowledge for the agency.”
As federal agencies take stock of their pandemic-driven IT advancements and mission successes, it’s easy to make the case for continuing the trajectory of fast-paced technology adoption and deployment. While agencies have advocated for IT modernization and wholescale transformation before, what’s fundamentally different this time is that the obstacles that have derailed past plans have been mitigated with the advent of managed network services. “It’s taken a while,” concluded Copeland. “But finally the landscape is in alignment for federal agencies to really drive ahead with digital transformation and be ready to meet the needs of the warfighter, the farmer, the veteran, and all constituents not just today, but well into the future.”