Hybrid network solutions help government agencies blend cloud and on-premises platforms.
Now more than ever, state and local governments must control costs and drive greater efficiencies. One of the best ways IT teams can achieve that is by optimizing their technology infrastructure.
Government organizations know that things like advanced analytics, data security tools, artificial intelligence and cloud technologies offer the most potential to accelerate their organizations’ digital transformationi. But public agencies still lag behind their private-sector counterparts when it comes to the proportion of their IT budget allotted to digital initiatives, according to Gartner researchii.
Budget constraints and the lack of a consistent overall business strategy may be to blame, but if the last few months have taught state and local governments anything, it’s that disruption comes whether you’re ready for it or not.
The world has gone hybrid, and that means it’s even more critical for government organizations to have a cloud-ready IT infrastructure, says Dave Mitchell, systems engineering manager at Nutanix, which helps public sector organizations modernize and scale their data centers and run applications in a hybrid environment.
“It's really been the year of hybrid. We’ve transitioned the traditional work environment to a work-from-home environment. We've transitioned our school environments to hybrid. When you look at IT, for years we've been shifting to a hybrid cloud model,” Mitchell says.
As state and local governments shift to a hybrid cloud model, they need to consider solutions that help them better manage their storage and computing resources, especially as they onboard new digital and SaaS applications to improve service delivery for constituents. A hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offers many of the capabilities state and local governments need to modernize and better control their IT environment.
A hyperconverged infrastructure allows organizations to decrease their reliance on physical data centers and hardware-defined technologies and take advantage of virtualized storage.
It is the natural evolution of server SAN and storage networks that many organizations have leveraged over the last 20 to 30 years. However, with the explosive growth of cloud technologies, a three-tiered storage model is no longer enough to meet the needs of businesses or governments, many of which use on-prem data centers, public and private clouds.
HCI addresses this challenge. An HCI platform virtualizes data center hardware and uses intelligent software to bring together servers, networking and storage environments to replace legacy IT infrastructure, increase application performance and help organizations simplify IT management and reduce their total cost of ownership.
HCI allows state and local governments to standardize and scale their IT operations in a cost-effective manner and gives them the flexibility to transition between on-prem or public or private clouds for various applications. This enables them to manage their workloads much more efficiently while maintaining performance and high availability. With an HCI platform, government organizations also can avoid vendor lock-in because they can rely on an infrastructure that supports various hardware and software-based solutions.
“Anyone who's been involved in IT for a while knows that lock-in drives incredible cost, so by eliminating lock-in with platform portability, it makes a real difference,” Mitchell says.
Some government organizations, like the Democratic caucus of the Pennsylvania (PA) House of Representatives, are already taking advantage of this infrastructure-as-a-service solution to drive modernization, increase visibility for their IT teams and facilitate various business needs, such as remote work.
Yuri Topolnicki, senior network administrator for the Democratic caucus at the PA House of Representatives, says his organization turned to an HCI solution to consolidate all the disparate platforms it had been using.
The Democratic caucus actually moved to virtualization with a separate SAN platform more than a decade ago, progressively modernizing its IT infrastructure as new technologies emerged — even amid tighter budgets. However, as the organization began to leverage cloud assets in addition to its private cloud on-prem, its IT environment became more complex and difficult to manage.
“We needed to make sure we weren't exposing assets that were accessible from the public cloud internal to our private cloud,” Topolnicki says. “It needed to be scalable. We didn't want to leverage a solution that was going to be outdated or completely outmoded in three years time. We also wanted to make sure that whatever we chose was going to be administrable by our team since we don’t leverage outside organizations for [IT] management.”
Topolnicki adds that hyperconvergence just made sense.
“It was the natural progression of where we had been growing as an organization and it really looked to leverage our cloud investment. The scalability was great. We would be able to take our ever-shrinking budget and better utilize those resources into something that was good for the organization,” he says.
The caucus is already benefiting from HCI. Kevin Astree, network and systems manager for Democratic information technologies at the PA House of Representatives, says the HCI platform the organization adopted has enabled his team to better manage its network infrastructure for the state’s Capitol complex and about 100 remote sites.
The platform has been crucial in helping the organization maintain business continuity during the pandemic.
“We've always had an eye toward continuity of operations and disaster recovery. However, we didn’t necessarily account for a scenario where the infrastructure stayed fully intact, but all of our people were distant and they weren't able to come back into the Capitol building and perform the work they're accustomed to doing. So, due to the previous investments we had made in public and government cloud infrastructure, it really eased our transition into a telework situation,” Astree says.
Those investments include things like VPN technologies, workspace collaboration platforms, Cisco Jabber telephony services, Microsoft Azure’s public cloud, Microsoft Teams and other Office 365 tools. The organization leveraged its HCI platform to enhance remote access to these solutions and other applications that members of the Democratic caucus needed in order to work securely and effectively from home.
During a time when government organizations are increasingly concerned about their IT costs, data sprawl and the financial impact and management of software licenses, Astree says using an HCI platform may be the best long-term option for state and local governments.
“It just makes more sense to invest in an ecosystem because it touches so much more of your infrastructure,” he says. “You can do virtualization and so much more.”
To learn more about how hyperconverged infrastructure solutions can help build better remote learning environments, view our on-demand webinar, “Understanding the True Costs of the Cloud: Finding the Right IT Infrastructure for Your Organization”.
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