The rapid transition to remote work and constituent demands for improved user experiences are challenging government agencies to digitize services—from tax payments to employee benefits. At the same time, government databases are increasingly becoming major targets for individual and nation-backed attackers. Budgetary constraints and diminishing tech expertise only complicate matters as agencies struggle to balance cost- and performance-optimization alongside cyber resiliency.

So how can government agencies accelerate digital transformation, defend against hackers, and support legacy applications and complex infrastructures?

The answer: a network infrastructure that is simpler to manage. Modern IT and communications can enable automation, improve performance, and help assure cyber resiliency at a time when government agencies are under unprecedented pressure to deliver services quickly and securely.

Take stock of assets 

It takes more than technology, though, to simplify a network. A foundational step in any modernization effort is to conduct an inventory of a network’s physical assets, from routers to servers, and determine both the network elements and attached management software used to construct it.

In many cases, IT teams do not know what is in their network. One of the first steps in simplifying a network is creating an accurate inventory of physical devices and the services being delivered.

This end-to-end visibility allows IT teams to better optimize processes that span IT and network functions. For example, underutilized and phantom assets can be removed, repurposed, or upgraded to increase capacity and cut costs.

Another step toward simplifying the network involves converging multiple layers into a single platform. Maintaining support for age-old legacy formats is a complex and time-consuming endeavor. Often adding to a network’s complexity are a whole host of protocols that aren’t supported anymore. Luckily, agencies can simplify the network by converging the number of layers it supports into fewer network element types.

For example, with converged packet (Ethernet, MPLS, IP, Segment Routing) networking equipment, government agencies can address growing demand for bandwidth without having to purchase and deploy additional equipment for each layer or service type. Packet-optical technologies also allow agency IT teams to deploy new services while avoiding the high costs associated with sprawling IP infrastructure.

Look to the future

Even the most flexible networks must prepare for the future. How will network requirements evolve over the next few years? What kinds of services and SLAs must a network support, and how might utilization of cloud services and mobility grow in a post-pandemic world?

Addressing these issues requires a simplified network capable of responding to real-time changes on demand. After all, provisioning, routing, and bringing new services to constituents is currently a labor-intensive task that can take months to years to complete. That is time many agencies cannot afford as they face a shifting landscape of user and mission needs.

Some of the older network architectures were relatively fixed, so if you wanted to change the amount of traffic flowing to a particular location, you had to do truck rolls.

Fortunately, software-defined intelligent automation changes that by digitally transforming key network components and processes. The result is a self-aware network that can readily adapt to change and perform feats—from predicting traffic bottlenecks to redirecting traffic flows—without human intervention or costly truck rolls.

Software-defined security

In some ways, networks are becoming easier to manage, but cyber threats are only growing in

sophistication. In fact, an IBM survey reveals that 73 percent of government employees are concerned about impending ransomware threats to cities across the country, and employees are more likely to fear cyberattacks than natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

The good news is a modern network can also serve as a powerful cyber defense tool. For example, a Software-Defined Network (SDN) manages traffic securely by routing it intelligently across a variety of devices and connections. Unlike with hardware routers, switches, and cabling, SDNs conduct cloud-based monitoring of the network, quickly detecting and responding to nefarious activities such as breaches, reconnaissance, and exploitations. In addition to automating the detection of and response to threats, agencies can enhance cyber security by encrypting the data traversing the network.

Mission accomplished

Even the act of simplifying a network can come with complexities. For this reason, many agencies looking to accelerate mission response seek out professional service teams to help them throughout the entire network evolution lifecycle, from planning and solution design to deployment and ongoing network management.

Keeping pace with constituents’ increasing demands for more secure and agile services is not easy. However, a holistic end-to-end networking approach—one that puts simplification, modernization, and automation at its center—can ensure agencies meet growing digital demands while fighting cyber crime and supporting legacy applications.

Learn more about how Ciena can help your agency craft and maintain a holistic end-to-end networking approach.