Last month, technology professionals traveled to Anaheim, Calif., to network with peers and learn more about application virtualization technology, cloud computing and mobility at Citrix Synergy 2013, a conference dedicated to insight, training and networking

David Smith, Citrix’s director of state and local government, and Tom Simmons, the company’s area vice president of the United States public sector, spoke to Government Technology at the conference about issues that public-sector leaders deal with in data management, virtualization, mobility and cloud deployment.

1. Policy Forces the Government to Approach Data Management Differently than the Private Sector

Public-sector agencies have the same technology needs as private enterprises, but the government’s policy restrictions often force the public sector to manage data differently than the private sector would have to.

Simmons spoke of requirements unique to federal agencies. “We do see some unique technology requirements," he said, "but generally, I’d say 90 percent of the technology that the private sector embraces will meet the needs of the federal."

He mentioned the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS), for example, which is a set of standards for encoding and encrypting data. And when mobile technology is involved, further adjustments must be made in government data management. IT leaders typically want to restrict access to some data types if an employee is accessing the government network on a personal tablet or smartphone.

“A lot of people are looking at [BYOD] as a way to handle some mobility challenges," Smith noted, "but depending on what type of data, policy may dictate that that’s not the right type of device to deliver information to."

2. The Mobile Workforce Creates New Data Management Challenges for Government

Simmons and Smith spoke further about mobility challenges. Data management isn’t the only thing that can get complicated when employees go mobile; application services delivery can grow challenging as well.

“Mobility has caused customers to look a lot more at how they deliver applications and data to employees,” Smith said. “How can you deliver an application to an end user or data to an end user, but not actually leave that data resident on the device?”

But not all government workplaces have the same standards when it comes to allowing data to reside on mobile endpoints. It’s up to a particular agency to determine what should be segregated and what shouldn’t.

“In some civilian agencies," Simmons said, "it’s a concept of whether it’s a government-furnished device or a bring-your-own-device kind of a concept, ‘How do I segregate and separate my government data and applications from my personal data and applications, like my photos and my iTunes and things like that?’”

3. Virtualization Can Play a Role in More Sophisticated Data Management and Storage

Can virtual server deployment keep data centers from becoming crammed with physical servers? Perhaps, but Simmons and Smith feel that the problems and solutions to data server and storage issues are more complicated than that.

“I think the cost of storage has come down so dramatically over the last five years that it’s not an issue of capacity. It’s an issue of the ability to analyze and access data,” Simmons said, adding that the most pressing concern is figuring out how to analyze and make use of surging data volumes to increase operational intelligence.

Smith said that it takes a combination of technologies to solve the data storage volume, when one exists, and virtualization can play a part in it.

“I think that new strategies on how to manage the massive amount of data that is increasingly created and maintained is a larger problem beyond just virtualization,” he said. “Virtualization can provide some keys to simplifying some of the challenges.”

4. Cloud Computing Helps Government Modify Cybersecurity Strategy

When government enterprises migrate data and operations to cloud providers, they typically give up some control over how everything gets managed, including security -- but adopters can configure cloud environments with security in mind.

According to Simmons, many Citrix government clients want segregated cloud environments, so data within one private cloud stays separate from data in a public cloud.

Cloud computing can also simplify security as employees become more mobile, Smith said. “Finding a new strategy to consolidate the delivery of information through a cloud-like service is actually providing a more secure environment than what they have traditionally done in having data reside often on endpoint,” he said, adding that in his opinion, the cloud computing model may allow governments to create new, innovate ways to provide services.

“I think cloud shows promise in providing new ways to deliver services [and] make it quicker and more expedient to provide access to different agency services to the citizen but also in finding new and different ways to deliver services that may not have been thought of in the past,” he said.

Hilton Collins, Staff Writer
Hilton Collins  |  GT Staff Writer

By day, Hilton Collins is a staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines who covers sustainability, cybersecurity and disaster management issues. By night, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and if he had to choose between comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. He can be reached at hcollins@govtech.com and on @hiltoncollins on Twitter.