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GCN : June 2015
Faster, better, cheaper. When it comes to how government users want to access IT resources, it’s practically a mantra. Add to that mandates such as Cloud First, the Digital Government Strategy and the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, and it soon becomes clear why automation is so critical to agencies today. Manual processes no longer have a place in any agency’s IT portfolio. They are expensive, labor-intensive, and susceptible to human error. The only way to meet user demands for speed and flexibility, along with gov- ernment’s requirements for cost-cut- ting, innovation and customer self-service, is through automation. Automation creates consistent, repeatable processes and configura- tions, which in turn reduces the po- tential for human error and speeds up deployment and provisioning. Automation also enforces consis- tency of IT policies and compliance mandates, including security. Finally, automation allows agencies to take a giant step forward in making IT services more customer-focused. Automating Infrastructure Delivery and Lifecycle Management Automating infrastructure delivery and lifecycle management makes a lot of sense for agencies today. In addition to improving efficiency and saving money, automating infra- structure delivery allows depart- ments within agencies to access the infrastructure they need, when they need it, without worrying about maintaining hardware and network- ing equipment. If there is a spike in requirements due to an internal deadline or citizen-facing service, the infrastructure is always available. Automating lifecycle management has its own benefits; it can help ensure that resources are used to their fullest at all times—no forgotten idle workloads, no oversized workloads, etc. Don’t be afraid to use lifecycle management features, from automat- ic discovery of hardware and software assets to software distribution and provisioning—to your advantage. While automation clearly comes with plenty of benefits, there are ways to improve the ROI and bene- fits the agency gets from automated infrastructure delivery and lifecycle management. The first step, says Jon Schulman, a Senior Systems Engineer for VMware’s public sector Solutions, Engineering and Technology team, is to make sure you understand the organization’s processes and how automation can fit into them. “It’s very important not to fall into the trap of automating bad processes,” he says. “It’s easy to do, but it can really impede the benefits the agency will get.” Take the time to fine-tune your automated offerings before offering them to users. Schulman recom- mends viewing your internal IT department as “Customer Zero” for the automation journey first. That approach will give IT managers the chance to understand and refine the processes and technical imple- BEST PRACTICES: AUTOMATION Working Smarter with Automation Shutterstock.com