Many state and local agencies are finding that managing in-house IT systems is expensive and logistically complex. Few organizations have the fiscal and personnel flexibility to address server sprawl or support antiquated systems and aging infrastructure components. Despite the constraints of data regulations, state and local government agencies foresee a time when they can offload some, if not all, data center operations.
Several significant IT trends are affecting how government IT organizations manage data centers; notably, cloud computing, mobility and Big Data. By modernizing data center technologies and applying cloud services where feasible, government agencies can take advantage of the increased capabilities offered by these trends, and also improve the efficiency of the infrastructure, protect it against failure and potentially reduce expenses.
Government IT organizations increasingly see the benefit of deploying cloud services, and many have adopted them for their routine business. A 2014 survey of government IT executives by American City & County magazine found nearly 50 percent of respondents used cloud services, most often for email and data storage. Top benefits include better accessibility from different devices (cited by 62 percent), reduced IT infrastructure build-out and maintenance cost (42 percent) and improved management efficiency (33 percent).
Although, many public cloud providers do not yet have the mandated state and local certifications, many government IT organizations are seeking alternative solutions, such as colocation or sharing private clouds with other government entities.
Mobile technologies provide advantages to employees and constituents but also present major challenges for government IT teams. The increasing number of mobile devices being used strains agency networks, demands greater bandwidth per user, drives additional storage needs and requires stringent security measures. IT staff, often already tasked with supporting data center operations, may not have the budget or human resources to speed up and secure mobile access or roll out mobile-optimized websites and applications. In order to keep pace with bandwidth demand and user expectations, agencies are turning to virtualized machines and storage as well as adopting cloud-based applications.
Government entities generate and capture data at an unprecedented rate. In a 2013 MeriTalk survey, the top three advantages of Big Data identified by state and local IT leaders were improved efficiency (57 percent), faster and more accurate decision-making (54 percent) and greater understanding of citizen needs (37 percent). However, respondents estimated they have less than half the storage capacity and computing power needed to effectively use Big Data.
While this data can provide valuable insight into services and delivery, it must be collected and secured in compliance with federal, state and local regulations. In order to update data storage effectively, IT departments need to deploy various storage media in a tiered model dictated by individual spending, access and capacity requirements. A tiered storage strategy assigns different categories of data to different storage media, placing high-value data that is accessed frequently in storage from which it can be easily retrieved. Data that is less important can be moved to slower storage media, which generally is less expensive, in order to reduce total storage costs.
IT trends are changing the way government agencies manage data centers. To further boost data center efficiency in light of new IT trends, government IT organizations should make enhancements to data centers in key areas, especially power, thermal management, network infrastructure, data storage and virtualization technologies. These areas contribute to improved efficiency, performance and cost savings. By investing in modern data center technology, government agencies not only benefit from new trends, they also gain a more efficient and resilient infrastructure.
Read the CDW white paper “Keeping Pace with Data Center Evolution” to learn more about boosting data center efficiency.