The accelerated growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) already has created a cascade of changes across public sector. With more devices producing more data (and demanding more IT services), government agencies have been working to add more storage, security, increase network bandwidth and system management tools – all while supporting a growing range of applications which let them take advantage of their mountain of new data.
In order to truly take advantage of a growing variety of available solutions, many agencies still have a great deal of work to do. This includes working to merge parts of their existing infrastructure. The challenge is where to start. We see two significantly different types of converged infrastructure.
First is datacenters themselves.
- Many government agencies started this process by merging datacenters. A few years ago it was not unusual for agencies to support dozens of different facilities to house their servers, storage systems, network gateways and more. Today, some organizations, like the U.S. Postal Service, have consolidated all the way down to just two data centers. One trend we see is that there will be fewer dedicated data centers, while the remaining facilities will be quite large, serving multiple customers.
Second is the consolidation of components that are able to handle multiple IT duties within a single, optimized computing package. This can include the following:
- Infrastructure Solutions which integrated servers (CPU & Memory),
- Virtualized servers (via hypervisors), or multiple storage systems blended into logical units with a single interface.
- The replacement of different networks with a unified IP infrastructure, allowing government organizations to work together using rich voice, video and data collaboration tools.
- The general idea is to turn various datacenter and network components into an appliance form factor that can be centrally managed.
Government agencies are working to enhance how they leverage the IoT. City governments are integrating new data sets that are generated by everything from networked parking meters to smart traffic lights. In turn, this has sparked a need for new applications – both to control the devices themselves and understand and leverage long-term usage patterns and trends. As government IT managers work to support more mobile users and to interface with more remote devices, the IoT itself eventually becomes the driving force for additional IT consumption.
There also is a human aspect to IoT. On one hand, these technologies hold great potential to improve citizen services and government reaction time when such involvement is needed. But on the other hand, these technologies could create a need for employee retraining — for example, to know how to use the new data coming in and the new applications that interpret this data. In some cases, workers may need to be redeployed to other job functions or other departments. This has two causes:
- The “Internet of Everything” (IoE) powered by IoT is automating many things that used to require people that now can be accomplished by machine-to-machine communication.
- Business-process changes will be sparked by this wave of new information and how governments choose to address it.
While this change is disruptive, it can also have a positive impact. In some cases, agencies may be able to redeploy personnel to more important mission tasks. For example, if fleets of government automobiles can accurately report on the maintenance they need, mechanics can spend less time inspecting the cars and more time doing the most important maintenance.
What’s Required to Converge
Agencies can prepare for the IOT by consulting with their architecture staffs and making sure they have a robust infrastructure in place to support IoT. Keep in mind that new parts of the IoT may extend your network presence beyond what’s in place today. This is a good thing, because it will also help support more mobile workers and device connections. However, it also means you will need to have the proper tools in place for device visibility and system security.
During a transition, establishing solid policies up front is extremely important. Also, since funding needs to come from individual sub-agencies or line-of-business managers, these stakeholders need to be on board with the transition. Assuring them that they will gain enterprise-wide (or even city-wide) wired and wireless access to a secure infrastructure that will support sensors and other devices can help them understand the advantages.
The end goal is to improve outcomes for both employees and citizens. Fully managed IT services, enhanced with application-aware networking, can help make this transition a smooth one, with optimal long-term results, in some cases, reducing the amount spent on less-robust legacy applications that have fewer capabilities.
Shawn P. McCarthy is an IDC Government Insights research director.