Government Networks Unprepared for Cloud, Big Data Transitions

As federal agencies gear up for a series of major IT transitions, a majority of government network managers say that their systems lack the capacity that will be required to meet the additional load that cloud computing, big data and other looming initiatives will entail.

In a new survey by the government IT group MeriTalk, underwritten by the networking vendor Brocade, 59 percent of the technology workers polled said that those initiatives, if deployed today, would reach or exceed their agency's network capacity.

"Networks are the backbone of IT delivery in federal agencies, just as they are in the enterprise," Anthony Robbins, vice president of Brocade's federal division, said in a statement. "As such, agencies need to take steps to prepare for increased network demands now -- this includes ensuring networks are modernized to open standards and robust enough to handle the traffic."

The 'Big Five' IT Transitions Threatening to Overwhelm Federal Networks

The authors of the survey identified what they call "the big five" IT transitions that threaten to overwhelm federal networks: cloud computing, big data, security, mobility and data-center consolidation, each identified by the White House as priorities in an overarching push to overhaul the federal government's roughly $80 billion technology operations.

The resulting surge of traffic is expected to increase network load by 79 percent. As a result, 84 percent of the 200 survey respondents said that if all five IT initiatives were fully deployed today, their agency would be at risk of a network bottleneck. A scant 12 percent said that their agency is completely prepared for the infrastructure demands of the big five.

Beyond the expected capacity crush, network managers anticipate that the new IT initiatives will bring added challenges in the form of security risks, cited by 70 percent of respondents, as well as bandwidth limitations (cited by 54 percent), network latency (46 percent), and storage limitations (42 percent).

Large majorities of the respondents indicated that their agency plans to press ahead with each of the big five transitions the survey considered within the next two years.

Broken down, 99 percent of respondents said they have already deployed a new security initiative or will do so by 2015. Ninety-two percent said the same about mobility; 90 percent are planning to move on data-center consolidation in that time frame, 78 percent with big data, and 76 percent with cloud computing.

In total, network managers polled said that they plan to overhaul nearly half of their agency's total IT infrastructure over the next two years.

In anticipation, some agencies are moving ahead with infrastructure upgrades like adding bandwidth and updating network policies, but the survey authors argue that they need to do more. "Address network capacity before it's too late," they conclude.

The Challenges of Implementing the 'Big Five' Tech Transformations

The picture is further complicated by some of the organizational and logistical challenges that are particularly acute in the federal government, infamous for its stovepiped IT culture. For instance, only 35 percent of agencies are consolidating the leadership on each of the five initiatives under a single senior executive.

Additionally, most aren't using a common, standardized process for the big five, and the individuals spearheading the transitions are typically not huddling in regular meetings.

Some -- though by no means most -- of the network managers polled said that they are taking various steps to ease the transition toward mobility, cloud computing and the other parts of the big five.

For instance, an even half of the respondents said that they are asking their leadership for clear prioritization on their IT initiatives, while 47 percent are seeking standardized documentation of their infrastructure requirements, and 44 percent said that they are pressing for stronger coordination among the leaders of the various transitions.

Kenneth Corbin is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who covers government and regulatory issues for

Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and onGoogle +.

Read more about government in CIO's Government Drilldown.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags data center consolidationGovernment ITbusiness issuesapplicationsMeriTalkdata miningManagement Topics | Governmentbig datawhite houseManagement Topicsfederal network managerssecuritymobilitysoftwarebusinessgovernment agencies cloud computing

More about Brocade CommunicationsFacebookGoogle

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Kenneth Corbin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place