Developing a Strategic Plan for Government Networks


This is part four of a four-part series based on a strategy paper from the Center for Digital Government on how high-performance networks power the move to modern government. You can read part two or download the complete strategy paper as a PDF.

Senior IT managers are struggling with a delicate balancing act. They must meet growing demand for new services with fast, reliable and secure network technologies. But at the same time budget constraints and other difficulties require executives to optimize their technology investments to achieve the highest performance paybacks at more economical costs. Here are four key considerations that can help IT leaders achieve these results.

  1. Make sure network goals and requirements are integrated within the organization’s overall strategic plan. Atlanta’s Small calls this a network system lifecycle strategy that defines the high-level impact of proposed network upgrades. ”Not having a network system lifecycle strategy [in the past] prevented the timely optimization activities necessary to ensure a secure and highly available network,” he says. ”Our pending network optimization plan will enable one common network to be shared by the world’s busiest airport, the water department and our City Hall administrative offices.” In addition, government IT managers may find that after creating an optimization plan and securing funding for an upgrade, it may smooth the path for subsequent enhancements as additional opportunities arise.
  2. Assess current network resources to identify performance gaps and reliability shortcomings, as well as what it will take to address them. An important step in the assessment process is to outreach to department heads and end users. Feedback from these stakeholders will give network managers a clearer picture of real-world application performance and system downtime. This will help leaders understand the most critical upgrade goals — higher performance, better availability, enhanced security, improved agility or a combination of needs.
  3. Evaluate network technology options to find the best fit. Thanks to their proven reliability and familiarity to managers of local area networks (LANs), Ethernet services are now a leading choice for today’s WANs. In fact, technology analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC) says adoption rates for Ethernet services are soaring, propelled by superior cost effectiveness, high-bandwidth scalability, ease of implementation and overall flexibility.5 ”Today, enterprises are increasingly utilizing 100Mb, Gigabit, 10 Gigabit and even some 40 Gigabit Ethernet services for their domestic and international WAN networking,” says Nav Chander, IDC research manager, United States Enterprise Communication Services, in a statement.6 ”We are also seeing a lot of U.S. enterprises upgrading their Ethernet bandwidth and adding more applications and business locations on net because of the economics and faster time-to-service compared to the alternatives. Together, these trends will enable enterprises to converge their communication platform requirements with Ethernet.” (source: Datacenter, VPN, and Cloud Service Connectivity to Drive U.S. Ethernet Revenues to $10.1 Billion by 2017, IDC Says) IDC forecasts that total revenues for Ethernet services in the U.S. will rise from $6.2 billion in 2013 to $10.1 billion in 2016. In recent years, Ethernet services for WANs have evolved beyond their roots as a LAN networking technology by expanding bandwidth, virtual connectivity and service-performance capabilities. The WAN services have also become more standardized than in the past, thanks to the efforts of the Metro Ethernet Forum, an industry consortium. As a result, Ethernet services can now deliver higher performance and cost savings compared to expensive private line services. In addition, Ethernet services offer improved flexibility and scalability. Reduced complexity is another plus — agencies can use the well-established Ethernet technology platform for connecting both their LANs and WANs. Benefits like these help explain why 43 percent of the respondents to the CDG survey said their organizations now outsource all or portions of their network to a private vendor. In fact, 22 percent of this group rely on a service provider for more than a quarter of their network services.


  4. Find the right network service provider. While there’s a lot to like about Ethernet services, government network administrators still must find the right service provider to ensure long-term success. Look for vendors that can draw on a solid track record in the public sector to assure they know how to address the unique financial and reliability requirements of government. Also, service providers should demonstrate a history of innovation so agency networks keep pace with the latest advances in performance and security. A provider with a widespread geographic presence is a must for government organizations that need to connect field offices and other remote locations. To match the right service for each individual application, IT managers should look for providers with a full portfolio of services, ranging from Ethernet private line and Ethernet virtual private line to Ethernet network service and Ethernet dedicated Internet. For optimum flexibility, each service should be available with a 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1Gbps or 10Gbps Ethernet port in bandwidth increments from 1Mbps to 10Gbps. Other service provider must-haves include dedicated project managers for each government account, proactive monitoring of network performance all the way to the client location and 24-hour enterprise support resources.
  5. A foundation for the future. IT operations are undergoing fundamental transformation thanks to a growing adoption of cloud computing, wide-ranging mobile applications, extensive virtualization within data centers and other trends. The potential payoff is clear — technology innovation today and tomorrow promise new and better services for constituents and government employees. The common thread that connects all these changes is they all require a high-performing, reliable and secure network infrastructure to make them successful. But agency IT managers face a venerable dilemma: How do you evolve and modernize essential networking resources while addressing the realities of today’s tight budgets? Fortunately, there’s an answer for technology managers trying to balance IT needs and financial challenges: a strategic approach to network design and management that incorporates considerations about this vital resource at the start of any new technology initiative. When state and local officials take a strategic view of networking infrastructures, their organizations pave the way for connections between agencies and citizens, provide important lifelines to emergency services, promote local business development, and link users and applications to game-changing cloud solutions.

Senior IT managers are struggling with a delicate balancing act. They must meet growing demand for new services with fast, reliable and secure network technologies.

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