Government departments would love to act as digitally dynamic and as fast as growing tech companies, but they have complex and aging systems to consider. That’s where a top class modern network can help.
The message to government executives is clear as day, the future resides in the cloud and citizens expect digital first service delivery to rival the standards of the private sector.
A generation of consumers and corporate tech users have become accustomed to the on-demand and seemingly effortless flexibility offered by scores of software as a service offering, and government is under increasing pressure to pick up the pace of innovative change.
However, the arrival of global hyper-scale cloud computing providers, and their increasingly aggressive tussle for government clients, is only a part of the solution for departments and agencies looking to tool up for the new era.
Unlike many of the startup and tech industry players that have wowed the business press and policymakers in recent years, government is a different beast, with requirements that cannot be ignored in a digital assault.
There is simply no escaping the expectation and requirements that core information assets – including on-premise applications – must be kept safe even when they transform.
Not all the older or legacy systems can be switched off or lifted and dropped into the cloud world. Smart operators need to find a dynamic way to embrace the new, while bringing the best of history along for the ride.
“Government entities at all levels are challenged with making operations more responsive and effective,” Adelaide O’Brien, research director, Government Digital Transformation Strategies at IDC says.
“Today for many agencies, the question isn’t whether to move to cloud, but what services can be deployed more efficiently via cloud versus traditional IT.
“By transforming infrastructure in a way that avoids disruption to the agency, IT can address government’s most pressing challenges while planning and preparing for future deployment of workloads to cloud.”
That is where the underlying network comes in … and recent advances, particularly from the likes of industry pioneer Cisco, mean that new multi-cloud environments can be created to suit the demands of modern government.
Last year the company debuted intuitive networks, which are programmable and intelligent enough to use automation and analytics to manage demand, while also keeping users and their data safe, when key infrastructure is in play.
It helps the public service develop a digital DNA, while also preserving the ability to work with older systems, which are still fit for purpose.
While citizens expect to use an app from one agency, and then have their details updated in other agencies they deal with, they have little idea how that happens in the background.
In addition, they are also increasingly alive to the importance of that data being protected.
Rodney Hamill, director of Data Centre and Cloud at Cisco Australia and New Zealand says the average person in the street does not know that specific data could reside mainly in an old on-premise server, which was initially installed decades earlier, in very different times.
“All these apps are becoming highly integrated through APIs and other sorts of technologies that allow them to sprawl across multiple environments,” Hamill says.
“A lot of them have been running for a long time, they could be in a big government agency on a server that’s sitting in the corner with the light’s flashing, where the last guy to document it retired ten years ago.”
A multi-cloud environment in government means agencies get to upgrade, while not deleting the past.
Agencies do not lock themselves in with one supplier, can take advantage of the best features of everyone, and keep suppliers honest when it comes to pricing.
Infrastructure for the future
Cisco has a network management tool, known as Application Centric Infrastructure, which fully embraces the reality of how government should set itself up into the future.
It has moved from controlling private clouds, to also integrate now with public cloud infrastructure from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
“You are going to have environments that you just can’t move to a public cloud for a variety of reasons, whether it be that the application is not suitable, or the data it is hosting is too sensitive”
– Rodney Hamill, director of Data Centre and Cloud at Cisco Australia and New Zealand
“However, applications that are hosted in the public cloud still need to talk back to systems that are hosted on the private cloud, so that the user is recognised and gets a seamless experience.
“These systems still need to interact, even though they are hosted apart … they must exchange data, but do so in a controlled fashion.”
Cisco’s intuitive networks therefore become crucial from both an intelligent monitoring perspective that shows management what is happening across their environments, and in enabling strategic planning of technology resource allocation.
Data is no longer held in isolation when it is in the cloud, it is in an ecosystem of multiple cloud platforms and Cisco is looking to provide the technology that makes that exciting rather than scary.
Visibility and control
By providing visibility and the control to manage activity via both human efforts and cognitive systems, security can be properly and proactively addressed.
Essentially the network and multi-cloud environment can now flex to meet the demands of government, rather than government bending to meet the constraints of technology.
These products include Cisco CloudCenter, which works as the focal point to manage and monitor applications across multiple data centres and private and public clouds.
It works alongside its HyperFlex platform, which is a converged infrastructure system to integrate computing, networking and storage resources across the various disparate environments.
This may sound overly technical, but it will become increasingly important as demands on the data held in government increase.
“As government organisations continue to invest in strengthening and optimising their hybrid ecosystem, they should consider taking convergence to the next level via hyper-converged infrastructure,” O’Brien says.
“And consider an integrated automation and analytics approach to maximise service performance across their hybrid ecosystem.”