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FCW : March 15, 2016
T echnology complexity and escalating costs are driving the Federal government to an IT crisis that is obvious to most. An expensive, impractical dependence on hardware—and the maintenance and refresh cycles that go with hardware—is partially to blame. To illustrate, consider the modern datacenter—a mix of servers, different types of storage and storage area networks (SANs). Traditionally, when an agency needed more compute or storage capacity, the answer was simply to throw more servers or disk drives into the mix, leading to this unsustainable sprawl of complexity and costs. Now federal agency chief information officers say their agencies spend as much as 80 percent of their time chasing problems associated with legacy infrastructure. That leaves them precious little time to develop the applications and services their agencies’ need to do their jobs. If the current environment is working against the agencies’ mission requirements, why spend so much time and budget on it? Complexity is Bad for Security As 2015 showed, this increased complexity dramatically increases IT security problems. Several major, and very public, breaches at the Office of Personnel Management, Internal Revenue Service and other agencies exposed the personal data of millions people. The cause of these breaches was primarily aging IT platforms. In its final Fiscal 2017 federal budget, the Administration proposed major spending on new technology for government. An IT Modernization Fund would kick start as much as $12 billion in new spending. Projects are to be aimed at lowering the overall cybersecurity risk of federal IT. The fund would be paid for and kept topped up through the savings agencies realize through deploying more cost-effective and scalable platforms. The current state of federal IT makes everyone’s information vulnerable, President Obama said when publishing the budget document. Social Security systems still run on a Cobol platform that dates back to the 1960s, he said. IRS systems are equally archaic, as are those that many other agencies use to collect data on Americans. “If you’ve got broken, old systems—computers, mainframes, software that doesn’t work anymore—then you can keep putting a bunch of patches on it, but it’s not going to make it safe,” he stated. If this new technology spending initiative means old hardware gets replaced by new, that’s only going to go so far in resolving this issue. The bigger problem is the hardware- defined approach to building infrastructure that persists in federal government IT. This is contrary to what is quickly becoming the modern approach—using software to both manage infrastructure and quickly distribute new applications and services to users. Brave New World This type of software-driven infrastructure is already available in some aspects, such as software-defined networks and software- defined storage. Instead of directly managing and manipulating the hardware components, the intelligence required to do so is embedded in a software overlay used to manage the overall infrastructure. Nutanix’ vision for software-defined infrastructure makes traditional infrastructure invisible—a high EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS: SOFTWARE-DEFINED INFRASTRUCTURE “Agencies spend as much as 80 percent of their time chasing problems associated with legacy infrastructure.” The Brave New Infrastructure Software driven infrastructure can relieve agencies from managing legacy systems. functioning, resilient asset that just works. This approach melds all of the silos and layers of a traditional hardware-defined infrastructure—servers and computing systems, storage and network—along with virtualization into a single, hyperconverged platform. The goal is to eliminate the administrative headaches that now bedevil so much of federal agency IT. That doesn’t mean the physical infrastructure is no longer important, says Chris Howard, vice president of federal sales at Nutanix. It means there’s no longer a need to worry about what’s under the virtualization layer. “What we want is for customers to focus on their applications and create an environment where as little time as possible is required to manage the hardware,” he says. “It’s not going to make the physical infrastructure any less important, but it will give them one less thing they have to design and architect around.” Deploying this type of platform should generate a quick relief on costs and other resources from both a capital expenditure perspective, anywhere from 20 percent to 45 percent upfront, and operations and maintenance. Simplified Infrastructure Currently, agency IT execs may have to check as many as ten different management consoles to monitor infrastructure operations. When those consoles do indicate problems, it’s difficult to pin down the location and extent of the problem. They may have teams of people specifically tasked with monitoring servers or storage or network hardware; even specialized teams running their virtual machines. The Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure platform reduces the number of consoles to monitor, as well as the number of staff needed to look after them. Those who would have been assigned to routine maintenance tasks can be reassigned to such things as developing and delivering new applications. That’s the end state at which agency CIOs want to arrive. No longer will their resources be exhausted on routine tasks. A hardware-defined infrastructure limits the types of applications agencies can use. That means having a rack of servers and storage just for e-mail, another to provide SharePoint services, and so on. Adding a completely new application or service means configuring hardware devoted exclusively to that purpose, which is both expensive, inefficient and time- consuming. It’s also inherently vulnerable to failure. If for some reason a rack goes down, the associated application is disrupted. Even with dedicated teams watching single applications, it might take hours to get them back online. This could be catastrophic for many organizations, particularly government agencies with a critical mission focus. The Nutanix self-healing platform also makes it relatively simple to both add new applications and services and spin up new virtual machines to manage increased workloads. Agencies can truly add or decommission new virtual machines and desktops in seconds. As new technology evolves, it’s relatively simple to work it into the mix. The need to manage an old and complex tangle of systems and applications gives agency IT managers little chance of meaningful modernization. Add a growing demand to dramatically improve security, and the current way of doing things seems even less sustainable. They need a way to remove the headaches they now have managing their aging IT, so they can take on the new and far more important challenges they face. Proven solutions, such as the Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform, deliver the efficiency, agility, resilience and security Federal organizations require. If you are struggling with an aging infrastructure and escalating costs, the time is right for you to learn more about Nutanix. Visit us at: www.nutanix.com EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS: SOFTWARE-DEFINED INFRASTRUCTURE “We want customers to create an environment where as little time as possible is required to manage the hardware.” — Chris Howard, vice president of federal sales, Nutanix SPONSORED CONTENT Software driven infrastructure can relieve agencies from managing legacy systems.
March 30, 2016