A new report has found that federal agencies are three times more like to experience frequent disruptions in service with complex networks than with simpler ones. In fact, increasing complexity is one of the top three network management challenges facing agencies today.
The study, “The Federal Simplicity Report: Navigating Network Complexity,” was conducted by MeriTalk, a public-private partnership that focuses on improving government IT outcomes, and was underwritten by Brocade.
The report identifies the inefficiencies that plague agencies most frequently, demonstrates how reducing network complexity can help alleviate those issues, and provides some solutions for agencies to navigate through the network complexity labyrinth.
According to the results, 94 percent of respondents reported that they have experienced disruption of services in the past 12 months, and 68 percent say it will continue to increase over the next three years. The top factors contributing to this complexity boom include: increased network users (36 percent), the move toward server virtualization (33 percent), the move toward cloud computing (32 percent), and increased use of mobile devices, including BYOD (30 percent).
Respondents also estimate that by cutting their network complexity in half, agencies 18 percent of their IT budget — a full $14.8 billion government-wide. And the solution, for these agencies, is to adopt open, non-proprietary standards.
“Reducing network complexity is a significant opportunity in federal government data center transformation,” said Anthony Robbins, vice president, federal for Brocade. “Agencies must move toward open, non-proprietary standards to simplify their networks. The resulting networks should be designed for, and use, products from multiple vendors. This will create a more reliable, lower cost network which is set up to move in the direction of software-defined networking. This modernized network will then provide the IT agility required to better meet agency missions.”
Such complexity can have devastating results for agencies: 68 percent of managers said that complexity prevents the implementation of new technologies, capabilities, and services, while 81 percent believed that network complexity impedes or blocks IT performance objectives.
The study also demonstrates that network complexity does not have a single root cause, and therefore agencies must apply flexibility in their reduction strategies. If done properly, reducing network complexity can improve organizational efficiency and save agencies money.
The path to reducing complexity and improving performance is coordination, education, and increased competition, according to the network managers. In addition to moving to open standards, other options suggested by respondents were adding bandwidth (44 percent), increasing redundancy (28 percent), and increasing virtual networking/software-defined networking (22 percent) as ways to simplify current networks.
Among the varied benefits of a simplified network are improved network reliability, speed, security, streamlined maintenance, and improved IT agility to better support the mission.
“The network is the road on which all government information travels,” said Stephen O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk. “Taking the road less traveled by — one with reduced complexity, interoperability, and diversification — will make all the difference, and is critical to agency performance and efficiency.”
“The Federal Simplicity Report: Navigating Network Complexity” is based on an online survey of 200 Federal network managers in May 2014. The report has a margin of error of +/- 6.86 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The full study may be downloaded at: www.meritalk.com/federalsimplicity.