The agency data center will continue to be a pain point in 2018 across a wide spectrum of government entities. This is nothing new- it has been a long-standing focus of attention for the highest levels of government administration as cloud-based systems become the norm. Government agencies will most likely never completely abandon their data centers – nor should they, as long as security and control over sensitive data are at stake. This being the case, administrators must recognize that the biggest challenge facing their IT teams is the complexity of maintaining their own data centers. In a field where success can be so predicated on preparation, why not give engineers and administrators the chance to focus their time and energy looking forward, and less time being reactive as they run through a never-ending cycle of emergency maintenance.
Data centers are complex. We can all agree on this, right? This is what agencies are looking to change. The cloud, which is nothing more than leveraging an outside data center, is simple. Keeping data and systems on-premises is not. It requires analytical resources, constant analysis of where and how traffic is going, and maintenance of multiple overlapping layers of security to protect invaluable data. Vendors are working to simplify all of these as much as possible. But even when security is converged onto a single pane of glass (for example), it typically requires multiple specialists to manage the elements of endpoint security, network security and application security. A move towards an environment where all vendors have unified interoperability standards enables data center managers to better plan for the future, identify a problems, monitor performance, and ensure maximum up-time.
It’s important not just to focus on what happens in your data center, but also on how agencies will build in the capability to use their data centers as an extension of the cloud to move data back and forth as missions evolve. A data center may be well-suited today to meet the day-to-day needs of an agency, but as that mission changes – for example, managing a response to a natural disaster – agencies must retain the ability to expand quickly by leveraging a cloud solution while bringing that data back to the data center when the situation returns to a more normal state.
This requires a subtle shift from the current preference for keeping everything on-premises and shipping data off-prem to a cloud or a continuity of operations (co-op) environment. It’s time for a new mindset based on keeping the right data off-prem and utilizing the on-prem data center as the co-op, spinning that up as needed and completely shutting off the cloud access in the face of a threat, hack or cyber-attack. This type of approach achieves the simplification that is so essential to refocusing resources away from the reactive and towards a proactive approach that plans for the future.