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GCN : June and July 2016
Enterprise IT systems have never been truly simple. Each era brings a host of new hardware, software and standards—but also new capabilities. From today’s perspective, mainframe computers certainly seem far less complex than today’s multi-dimensional environments. Back in the mainframe era, the concepts of virtualization and cloud-based services were unimaginable. For example, IBM moved beyond batch processing with the introduction of its Systems Network Architecture in the 1970s. At that point, geographically dispersed organizations acquired online transactional capabilities, but they still required expensive and proprietary hardware. This “new” infrastructure also required new expertise in infrastructure design, programming and IT management. Some things never change. The advent of TCP/IP thoroughly democratized computing, such that someone at home with their tablet shares the same network as at least some parts of the National Security Agency. The ubiquity of computing advanced with the deployment of 3G then 4G wireless networks and fast WiFi. For federal agencies, no less than large corporations, the enterprise IT environment has grown increasingly complex in new and challenging ways. You can characterize the average environment in terms of the components of which is composed. For the goal of high performing mission applications, high-touch communications with the public, and the flexibility to let people work anywhere, agencies have deployed multiple categories of solutions: n Multiple networks. Protocols may have converged into TCP/IP, but agencies still have internal wireless networks and increasingly rely on cellular enterprise contracts. At one time, boundaries were roughly established by where public lines connected to agency firewalls. Now mobile devices have blurred the boundaries. n Internal and public facing applications. Agencies are now working under a refreshed policy for improving the citizen experience when they visit agencies online (and in person or on the phone, for that matter). Phase one of public-facing electronic government was the simple deployment of web sites, followed by limited transactions. An IRS mobile application that lets taxpayers track the status of their refunds is typical of the next phase. n Data as a separate entity from systems. Public facing apps—both on mobile devices and on the web— for program analysis, cybersecurity, workforce planning and many other functions are informed by data generated from multiple sources. You can also add social media into the mix as a source of data. The model of transactional databases in rows and columns and data warehouses for post-facto analysis is gaining a new piece. Agencies are also adopting data lakes or noSQL stores of multiple data types in large volumes. So-called big data is the raw material of analytics applications. A growing number of state tax agencies are adopting data analytics in the battle against fraud. n Non-human end points. Agencies are moving into the internet of things era, in which devices gather data and use wireless networking to report it. This relates directly to collecting and analyzing big data. One example is the EPA’s citizen science program. It equips people in a given geographic with wireless-equipped sensors that measure specific pollutants in air or water. n Multiple devices for each employee. For some older members of the federal workforce, agencies have pondered whether everyone needed a telephone on their desk. Later, management wondered whether everyone needed e-mail access. Today the average user has at least two enterprise-connected devices, a standard PC and a mobile device. Even three or four devices are common for some employees, and all that device data must be provisioned, tracked and updated. The challenges in dealing with all of these elements stem from the need to have visibility into the infrastructure and the means with which to maintain network and application performance. CIOs repeatedly say there’s no shortage of tools for measuring and reporting application performance and network activity. With each tool having a “pane of glass,” though, they’re searching for solutions that virtualize and simplify complexity’ while minimizing the potential for unexpected failures. FOR FEDERAL AGENCIES, NO LESS THAN LARGE CORPORATIONS, THE ENTERPRISE IT ENVIRONMENT HAS GROWN INCREASINGLY COMPLEX IN NEW AND CHALLENGING WAYS. Agency IT Continues to Evolve The IT landscape continues to change; sometimes in huge leaps and sometimes incremental changes. GameChanger MONITORING AND MEASURING ARE CRITICAL FUNCTIONS SPONSORED REPORT ENTERPRISE VISIBILITY
August and September 2016