Federal IT: From Infrastructure to Ecosystem

For decades, IT infrastructures consisted of four walls, a raised floor, power, cooling and equipment—or what is commonly known as a Data Center. In 2006, the term cloud took hold of our conversations. The public sector began to aggressively explore cloud solutions and how to migrate to their cloud of choice. Today, the reality is setting in as we discover that it isn’t one or the other, but both—an IT Ecosystem.

Ecosystems are defined by the network of interactions among organisms and between organisms and their environment. [1] They can be of any size but usually encompass specific, limited spaces[2]. The world of IT consists of many ecosystems all connected by a wire—with the data being the organisms. CIOs are no longer concerned with server brand or storage type. They require an environment that provides the space they need—and the performance they demand—at a price they can afford. Why? So the data can have an impact, and be at their fingertips in a matter of minutes not days.

The IT group that is willing to evolve will not only justify its existence but enable the organization as a whole to thrive. In the IT world, necessity creates innovation.

The demand for tasks to be done faster, to integrate better, and be cheaper has led IT manufacturers to develop for the cloud. These requirements have led specifically to the development of the hybrid cloud, the platform for an IT ecosystem. When it comes to federal IT, hybrid cloud brings together public and private cloud services with the potential to save agencies money and improve effectiveness.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is one such agency that has adopted a hybrid cloud approach. In late 2016, CIO of the SBA, Maria Roat did a walk-through of the agency’s data center facilities and found there was water coming into SBA’s primary data center resulting from a leak in the building. The decision was made to not put any new hardware in place for the SBA data center and the agency quickly began their transition to the cloud.

According to Sanjay Gupta, Chief Technology Officer, SBA, their cloud initiative was kicked off in February of this year and as he says, “in 82 days we’ve accomplished several things. We’ve had architecture, design and implementation completed,” an astounding accomplishment when it comes to cloud migration, especially within federal IT. Gupta notes that because the FY 17 budget was already in place once the project kicked off, the SBA had to get creative. They right-sized their contracts, and as Gupta adds, used “funding from existing contracts and repurposed them to fund our cloud.”

As more federal agencies move to the cloud, enterprise IT is also moving at lightning speed to get on board. NetApp has taken a hybrid approach by enabling its operating system to work on its own equipment as well as on “white box” servers. The NetApp operating system is also offered for the cloud and provides the ability for data to be managed the same way regardless of the location.

Cisco’s Cloud Center provides working environments the ability to move throughout the IT ecosystem without having to change how the data is handled or formatted. These are just two examples of what is available today.

When an IT professional is armed with a comprehensive knowledge of mission critical needs, a keen understanding of the existing IT environment, and knowledge of current trends as well as all proven solutions—the creation of an IT ecosystem is achievable today.

[1] Schulze et al. (2005), p.400
[2] Chapin et al. (2002), p. 380; Schulze et al. (2005); p. 400

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