Federal Insights

The Needle in the Haystack (The Visibility Challenge of IT Operations)

by jrizo ‎05-01-2017 11:19 AM - edited ‎05-01-2017 11:57 AM (800 Views)

My intent in putting this post together is not to bore you with mundane talk about how we can make networks great again. Rather, I’m going to quickly review the challenges I’ve personally faced operating networks over the past 20+ years and offer a revolutionary solution for networkers. I’ll show you how this works in a real world scenario that solves “The Needle in the Haystack” challenge.

 

Three Operational Challenges

 

The Network is Slow: Operationally, simple problems like user access issues, links that have gone down, or switches or routers that have gone belly up can be quickly identified and remediated by network engineers targeting specific points in the infrastructure.

 

What happens with my favorite support call? When the complaint is that the network is slow, the real fun begins. Engineers sift through the latest batch of Syslogs and check NMS for error messages or alerts that may have been logged. Nothing found? Then it’s time to go element by element to see if anything along the path is behaving badly. Chances are that nothing is going to immediately jump out, leading to a painstaking search through the entire infrastructure to identify and resolve the cause of the slowdown.

 

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) Peer Goes Down: Another one of my favorites challenges is when a long established BGP peer goes down overnight. Depending on peering relationships and network failover, this could be a big deal. For instance, if a customer uses BGP peer A for their primary network traffic and have a contract with BGP peer B as a backup connection, this comes at a hefty usage cost. The longer they are on BGP peer B, the more money they are paying for this service. Service providers typically staff BGP experts 7x24, but most federal agencies do not and cannot afford to do so. This means costs are mounting as the issue goes either unnoticed or unresolved until appropriate resources arrive. Worst case scenario…you’re in Texas and the outage is in Minot, North Dakota. Come on, tell me some of you haven’t been in this situation before.

 

Command Line Interface (CLI) is Cumbersome: If you’ve been following the Federal Insights Tech Corner, then you may have read through the most recent Tech Corner post on how the CLI is dead. The piece explains why using CLI and point management tools are inefficient and operationally cumbersome. I’m not going to belabor the fact that this is correct, but want to present the current widespread use of CLI as another operational challenge agencies face.

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Security On The Edge: How Is Your Agency Protecting Data at the Edge?

by walkerj ‎03-21-2017 08:47 AM - edited ‎03-21-2017 09:58 AM (2,222 Views)

It’s no surprise that the Internet of Things (IoT) is expanding. IHS predicts that the number of IoT-connected devices will grow to 75.4 billion in 2025. While greater connectivity increases innovation and operational flexibility, these devices raise concerns about network security.

 

In January 2017, the Government Business Council (GBC) surveyed 442 federal employees about the state of their network security and what their agencies are doing to secure the data at the edge. Sixty percent of respondents cited security as the most important performance feature when it comes to the devices and sensors their agency uses to transmit data, ranking above stability, speed and accuracy. Further, 89 percent of those surveyed felt it was very or extremely important that devices operating on the edge, such as IoT-connected devices, were secure from malicious attackers.

 

Despite this agreement, 58 percent of respondents are only somewhat, not very or not at all confident about the security of edge devices. The most commonly cited tactic for securing the edge is also one of the easiest approaches for hackers to work around: stringent password requirements. What is causing these security gaps? Insufficient funding, slow procurement and lack of technical expertise were highlighted as top challenges. However, agencies can take steps to protect their networks from the edge to the core.

 

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CLI is Dead

by tbraly ‎03-13-2017 08:43 AM - edited ‎03-15-2017 01:53 PM (3,745 Views)

The much-loved Command Line Interface (CLI) with its simplistic, yet complex set of instructions entered one line at a time is dying. With major changes to the IT landscape, introduced with digital transformation and IT modernization, the approach can no longer keep up. Per Gartner by 2020 only 30 percent of network operations teams will use the CLI as their primary interface. I believe that number should be closer to 1 out of 10. Here’s why:

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IHS reports that the Internet of Things (IoT) will double from around 15 billion devices in 2015 to more than 30 billion devices by 2020. There is no doubt that the federal government is sharing in this growth. Already agencies are using IoT devices, with uses ranging from soldiers gathering data from satellite imagery and other sensors before or during a mission to agencies tracking critical assets such as trucks, construction materials or medicine supplies.

 

These opportunities are only going to increase as government agencies integrate more Internet of Things (IoT) devices into supporting mission outcomes. What many may not realize is that occurring in the background is likely a wireless network that makes data retrieval from these sensors possible. For the federal government to capitalize on the potential of IoT, it needs a network that is scalable, integrates Wi-Fi technology seamlessly with cellular networks and can be easily deployed. These requirements can all be achieved with a few considerations.

 

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Federal government IT professionals have always been committed to serving their fellow citizens. Long before there were IT departments or computers, federal employees were exploring ways to innovate and improve citizen services.

 

For example, in the 1880s the Census Bureau struggled to efficiently process data from a growing U.S. population. Bureau employee Herman Hollerith found a new way to process the increasingly large quantities of data the Bureau had collected during the 1880 census. Hollerith automated the tallying of data with a tabulating machine that became known as the Hollerith Machine and reduced processing tabulation time by nearly 900 percent.

 

In the 20th century we saw that same spirit of federal IT ingenuity displayed in the work of individuals like Dorothy Vaughn at NASA. Vaughn, whose story has been made famous by the film Hidden Figures, was a manager at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA) and took it upon herself to learn computer programming. Vaughn became critical to helping NASA incorporate IBM computers into its calculations. It’s important to note that Vaughn took the initiative herself to learn computer programming and understood the potential that emerging technologies would have on NASA’s mission.

 

These individuals became heroes at their agencies by taking risks and continually learning. This same spirit of discovery continues to move agencies forward today. Federal IT employees can improve how government serves the citizen and the warfighter and transform how their agencies meet their missions.

 

What does it take to become a federal IT hero? Start by tapping into professional curiosity, exploring emerging technologies and with experimentation.

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Creating Possibilities and Enabling Virtualization with OpenStack

by kevin.deterra ‎02-02-2017 12:57 PM - edited ‎02-08-2017 08:34 AM (919 Views)

Open source software and open standards continue to rapidly evolve data center technologies much in the same way that Linux and Android have enhanced our lives over the last decade. Thanks to them, it’s possible to order a pizza from top-ranked local shop on the way home from work or to find the closest gas station on the way to the airport in an unfamiliar city.

 

The agility these tools enable on a personal level can be brought to government and business through OpenStack and Software Defined Networking (SDN), making an impact on citizens and warfighters that goes far beyond the convenience of ordering a pizza. In government, what open source technology makes possible can help mitigate security concerns or maximize agency cost savings. Agility and customization are possible as a result of virtualization and open source, both open standards-based tools.

 

This blog will cover a range of open source tools that can help make new possibilities a reality for government and will illustrate how they work together to provide a flexible, virtualized environment.

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With so many technologies emerging and rapidly changing, it’s hard to stay up to date on all options for IT innovation and know which infrastructure options best fit your agency and customer needs. The technical trends have dictated that IT technologist must think differently to adapt to consumer demand and mission effectiveness.

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Making Wireless Access and BYOD a Reality at your Agency

by ccollura on ‎01-11-2017 05:42 AM (2,124 Views)

Mobile devices have become ubiquitous in our society. According to the Digital Government Strategy group, more Americans access the internet from mobile devices than from desktop computers. These devices increase productivity in citizens’ personal lives and offer agencies the opportunity to more efficiently deliver services and meet mission objectives.

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2017 will see the beginning of a new presidential administration and holds the potential to be a year of action. With this in mind, I’d like to propose five New Year’s resolutions for federal IT leadership and the new administration that will enable real change in 2017.

 

Establish IT as central to agency missions and retire legacy systems

 

Federal agencies are beginning to understand the potential of digital transformation and how it supports their missions. Yet in order to power these technologies, IT modernization is critical. Just as a Lamborghini won’t run up to its full potential on a dirt road, the most cutting edge technologies will be limited by outdated infrastructure.

 

This coming year, agencies must resolve to retire all legacy systems that are more than ten years old. If IT infrastructure is older than your first cell phone, it can’t support digital transformation securely or effectively. For example, software-defined infrastructure and network solutions that offer visibility and automation allow agencies to adjust to unpredictable network traffic and the explosion of data caused by digital transformation. It’s time to prioritize these network options and serve citizens, taxpayers and our armed forces with the digital experience that they get everywhere else.

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Imagine two cars are racing. The first is a Ferrari, while the second is a 1999 Ford Taurus. The comparison seems unfair, yet this is one way to view the relationship between today’s government IT environment and IT expectations. The Ferrari represents government employee and citizen expectations for security and reliable data access. The Ford Taurus represents aging government networks that cannot keep pace with a wide variety of emerging security threats. In the current vehicles, it’s an impossible race to win.

 

However, this scenario doesn’t need to be the case. Machine learning in the network can help detect and negate attacks. Similar to the idea of automatically upgrading the engine in the Ford Taurus, weaving real-time intelligence via machine learning into the network infrastructure can help keep pace with emerging threats. In a world where attacks can occur at any time, the network needs agile defensive and offensive capabilities. With machine learning built into the network, a heightened level of awareness is integrated in to your environment to address zero-day threats as well as other service disruptive anomalies.

 

While many machine-learning capabilities are still being developed, this is the time for agencies to prepare. Government should take three steps to leverage machine learning for your network within the next few years.

 

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From cloud to the Internet of Things, digital transformation is catching hold in government. While agencies are becoming better at identifying new technologies to support their needs and are working with industry to find solutions to mission challenges, innovation isn’t just about technologies themselves. To effectively speed IT advances, agencies are now considering a DevOps methodology.

 

A recent study found 78 percent of federal IT professionals feel DevOps can accelerate innovation at their agency. DevOps is a culture of trust and collaboration in which people use the right tools for automation to achieve continuous delivery. As a result issues can be resolved in days rather than months.

 

How can agencies know if DevOps is right for them and how can they adapt?

 

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It is no surprise that cybersecurity is a growing concern for the federal government. The most recent FISMA report reflects 77,000 successfully executed cyber incidents occurring in 2015, a number that has increased each year. Part of the growing challenge is due to the diverse and ever-expanding number of endpoints and data sources for agencies to secure, especially on government campuses. With this landscape as a backdrop, campus environments require a tailored approach to security and encryption due to their varied department needs and multiple physical locations. Here are traits to look for:

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Solving the Defense Innovation Puzzle with AFCEA

by Phil.O.Reilly on ‎10-31-2016 11:44 AM (1,617 Views)

What do GPS, computers and duct tape have in common? Each of these inventions, at least two of which influence our lives daily, were created for the U.S. military, one of the world’s greatest drivers for innovation.

 

Organizations like the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) help the defense community stay ahead as a technology leader. The type of ingenuity that revolutionizes IT starts with people, problems and ideas. It’s an unavoidable reality that the defense community has problems to solve. AFCEA brings together the other two pieces of the puzzle – people and ideas – with some of the greatest minds from the military community, industry and academia. In turn this creates a platform to drive the next great invention.

 

With this in mind, Brocade Federal is looking forward to helping drive tomorrow’s defense IT innovation with my appointment to AFCEA’s Executive Committee of the Board of Directors. AFCEA serves the military community by creating collaborative opportunities that can help identify technologies to better support service men and women. As a part of the organization’s executive committee, there are great opportunities for pursuing these objectives – starting with digital transformation and the network.

 

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Government IaaS spending increased 53 percent from 2012 to 2015, according to a recent report from Govini. IDC Government Insights reported growth in IaaS, PaaS and SaaS spending in 2015. Government is seeing big benefits in acquiring IT as-a-service and investing accordingly. What needs to be considered more frequently in the as-a-service movement? Agencies are looking to the network.

 

Agencies currently spend more than 70 percent of their IT budget maintaining legacy IT systems and technology. Yet at the same time, they are under pressure to modernize systems – with nearly $3 billion worth of IT systems expected to become outdated over the next three years. These challenges don’t have to be at odds. Network subscription models allow agencies to invest in new network technology with more readily available OpEx dollars.

 

Public sector innovators are overcoming network challenges by acquiring capabilities through network as-a-service or subscription models. Leaders in the defense and healthcare communities explored some of the benefits and challenges of the model in a recent FedInsider webinar. What were some of the key takeaways?

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From the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) to increased virtualization, agencies today are presented with great possibilities - and faced with complex network demands. Despite the availability of networking technology capable of handling digital transformation’s network pressures, many agencies continue to operate on aging, legacy networks as a result of damaging network acquisition practices and agency acceptance of the status quo.

 

How are network acquisition processes limiting innovation? A recent Forrester report outlined eight toxic network vendor selection practices and flagged warning signs that managers are failing to pursue the best solutions for their needs. These toxic behaviors are impacting the ability to leverage cloud, consolidate data centers and increase the efficiency of IT. They do so by adding risk to projects and programs, thus restricting mission outcomes and the services provided. The issues reflected are largely relevant in federal government, but can be remediated by strong leadership, open standards and refreshed workforce expectations.

 

 

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How to Create a Smart City: Start with Strong WiFi and New IP Networks

by selina.lo ‎09-26-2016 10:41 AM - edited ‎09-26-2016 01:16 PM (3,092 Views)

I recently had the privilege of speaking at a White House organized event that highlighted the importance of government next-generation wireless access. In partnership with U.S. Ignite and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal government is investing $400 million in what they call the Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, meant to advance research in the journey to 5G and next-generation wireless technology.

 

Innately affordable and offering speeds of up to a gigabit per second, Wi-Fi is both accessible and efficient. Ruckus Wireless, recently acquired by Brocade, delivers on the need for dependability, even in radio frequency (RF) challenged environments, through adaptive antenna technology.

 

One of the most revolutionary applications of next-generation wireless infrastructure is within smart cities. High performance Wi-Fi access and analytics allow municipalities to improve everything from guest Internet access to foot and commuter traffic patterns to first responder efficiency. For example, cities can leverage Wi-Fi infrastructure to collect footfall analytics, which can predict commuter wait times, feed them to a train-scheduling algorithm and improve city traffic and efficiency. First responders, on the other hand, can leverage Wi-Fi for speedy analytics to receive information about an accident before they reach the scene.

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The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) plays an important role in the military community by creating a forum for defense and industry collaboration that helps identify effective technologies to support our service men and women. Like many organizations serving the public and private sector, technology plays a central role in meeting AFCEA’s goals and reaching its members.

 

With aging infrastructure based on proprietary standards, AFCEA recognized the need for a network upgrade. The organization had three primary network demands - greater network flexibility, heightened visibility and security, and, moving into the future, a higher bandwidth environment. To address these demands AFCEA partnered with Brocade to transition to a New IP network.

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Digital technologies are transforming consumers’ every day lives. Today’s citizens, warfighters and veterans expect a government that can provide the same on-demand digital services. Empowered by digital transformation, warfighters can retrieve critical geospatial intelligence and enable successful mission completion at the push of a button and doctors can identify patterns in health data that can pinpoint whether a veteran is prone to contracting a specific illness.  

 

To enable such innovation, government must first be able to easily purchase these technologies and the infrastructure necessary to support them. Yet in many cases the current IT acquisition process limits advancement. For example, not all agencies conduct the tailored market research necessary for each unique RFP, potentially costing government. Additionally, RFP requirements frequently specify a solution or vendor, rather than a statement of needs, desired capabilities, functions, and or service levels linked to mission outcomes.

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IT Modernization & Open Standards Command Attention at Federal Forum

by tceleste ‎07-06-2016 05:54 AM - edited ‎07-06-2016 06:43 AM (1,697 Views)

A technology revolution is happening. This was the focus of conversation as Lloyd Carney, Brocade CEO, welcomed attendees to the 2016 Federal Forum, highlighting the intersection of innovation and taking action to modernize federal networks. According to Carney, adoption of software-defined networks and New IP network architecture is inevitable as government scales its infrastructure to accommodate digital transformation.

 

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At Brocade’s Federal Forum, government and industry will come together to discuss how new, innovative technologies will change the way the federal government serves citizens and warfighters through network modernization and the concept of the New IP. Many of the conversations at Federal Forum will focus on the possibilities modernization enables, but what does this mean in action? What does the technology look like?

 

To answer these questions, keynotes, breakouts and panel sessions will be coupled with a series of demonstrations in the Technology Pavilion. The Technology Pavilion will showcase advancements in network management and data visibility and provide an interactive experience that can be tailored to fit specific interests and questions from visitors to the Pavilion. Those who attend can expect to explore various aspects of software-defined networking (SDN), network security, high-performance analytics technology and much more.

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2016 will mark the fifth year government and industry leaders have come together to discuss IT infrastructure modernization, emerging tech trends and more at the 2016 Federal Forum, presented by Brocade.

 

For those with a greater interest in the technologies impacting government, the tech track provides a deeper level of insight. The tech track complements the technology pavilion and is designed specifically for techies, covering topics like network security, software-defined networking and DevOps.

 

As we prepare to take a deeper dive into network modernization at the Forum, here’s a preview of three key conversations that will frame the technical track.

 

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Agencies are being asked to deliver more innovation and accelerate the pace innovation at a time when more than 71 percent of IT spending is going towards maintaining legacy IT systems. This imbalance is inhibiting government’s ability to move towards a secure and agile environment. Government must adopt a modernization strategy to reduce the funds required for IT maintenance and to fully take advantage of transformative technologies like cloud, big data, mobile, and the Internet of Things.

 

How should agencies get started? Find out at the 2016 Federal Forum.

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Technological advances in all areas across the federal government have changed the way agencies work and interact with citizens. For government agencies to keep pace with technological innovation, network modernization and a transition away from hardware-centric data centers must be a top priority.

 

Hardware-centric legacy data centers were not built to keep pace with the needs of modern IT and make provisioning new technology slow, expensive, and error-prone. This hinders innovation in the era of mobile, social, cloud, and big data and may even lead employees to turn elsewhere for services when delays and other issues prohibit productivity.

 

California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) is one example of an organization that was prohibited by its legacy networks and found a solution through a Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC). Challenges managing data center security policies and enabling efficient network provisioning negatively impacted DWR employees’ abilities to quickly access the applications they needed to do their jobs. The challenges faced by DWR are all too common in agencies across the federal government, as well.

 

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The Case for 1,000 Data Centers

by Anthony Robbins on ‎05-12-2016 12:15 PM (1,880 Views)

Awareness of the need for data center consolidation has come a long way since 2010 when the Office of Management and Budget launched the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI). However, while there is no lack of conversation on the issue, measurable results have been limited and the number of centers in operation has only increased.

 

The good news is that data center consolidation efforts have generated considerable savings over time – an estimated $2.8 billion from 2011 to 2015 according to recent GAO reports. Yet the same report stated that of the 10,584 data centers in operation, only 3,125 were closed in 2015 - revealing missed opportunities for greater savings. The benefits of consolidated, optimized data centers are tremendous: application effectiveness, programmatic control, security and data integrity, elasticity and scalability, and automation. All of these ensure agencies have a robust data center architecture that meets their current and future requirements.

 

Current directives like the recently released Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) support CIOs and agency leaders. The initiative requires agencies to not only report on their data consolidation efforts, but also optimize existing technology infrastructure and transition to more efficient options, such as cloud. The DCOI provides actionable guidance and places a freeze on new data centers. CIOs are now more empowered and driven to reduce government’s data center count to 1,000.

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Government networks now face a multitude of users demanding access to massive amounts of data, but they’re losing steam trying to keep up.

 

The legacy frameworks propelling them forward aren’t getting any more capable, either. But through a revolutionary networking practice called the New IP, limited and wasteful networks can transform into open networks — and they can do it now.

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Security Services Abstraction via Software Defined Paradigm

by walkerj ‎02-08-2016 08:31 AM - edited ‎02-08-2016 10:29 AM (3,472 Views)

The recent explosion of connected devices, big data and cloud computing has led to revolutionary changes in our use of technology. While these innovative technologies have unleashed unparalleled possibilities for government agencies, they have also seriously threatened network security. Every new piece of technology added to the network – from sensors, to laptops, to cloud datacenters, to mobile phones – is a new endpoint that has the potential to be compromised.

 

 

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Securing the Future of U.S. Digital Infrastructure

by Anthony Robbins ‎01-18-2016 08:52 AM - edited ‎01-18-2016 09:18 AM (4,981 Views)

On December 9, 2015 industry leaders from Brocade, AT&T, General Motors and Facebook joined senior officials from the federal government, including U.S. CIO Tony Scott, to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing our nation, the Future of U.S. Digital Infrastructure.

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Federal Partner Kickoff 2016: Paving the Way for the New IP

by jmuscare ‎01-11-2016 09:11 AM - edited ‎01-11-2016 09:14 AM (3,817 Views)

On December 3, the Brocade Federal Team joined forces with our strategic partners for the 2016 Federal Partner Kickoff. In collaboration with industry colleagues from VAR, Eco-System, and FSI communities we discussed Brocade’s direction for 2016, as well as upcoming trends in federal networking technology. 

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Debunking the Myths of Network Modernization

by tony.celeste ‎11-17-2015 07:09 AM - edited ‎11-17-2015 07:10 AM (6,128 Views)

“The modernization of the IT environment of the federal government has to be one of our highest priorities,” Federal CIO Tony Scott said this summer at the Brocade Federal Forum. “We’re going to have to replace large parts of what we have because [existing network architecture] just was never designed for the mission and for the challenges that we face today.”

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