Multiple changes are on the horizon for public sector information technology managers. Over the next two years, IT organizations could be heavily impacted by these transformations, via a very distinct series of events.  Government and education CIOs, program managers, and business process planners will need to keep an eye on these looming changes as they embark on long-range IT plans.

IDC Government Insights recently worked with Cisco to develop a detailed InfoBrief –  as a way of highlighting these crucial issues. It’s titled Public Sector Reacts Positively to the Changes in IT Consumption.

The recommendations outlined in the InfoBrief are based on a study IDC conducted in February and March of this year. The goal of the study was to gain clear insights into how government and education IT planners are preparing for upcoming changes to their enterprise computing environments. One thing that quickly became apparent is that many are keeping an eye on the rapidly emerging Internet of Things (IOT). The rapid growth within this market space (edge devices) is leading many public sector IT managers to realize that they may not be fully prepared for the impact of the devices and the cascade of data that they will produce.

IDC considers  IOT in the public sector to include a wide range of devices, including sensors attached to roads, bridges and traffic lights; security monitoring solutions (video feeds, motion detectors); classroom data collection (science labs, temp sensors, etc.); energy consumption monitors embedded into building heating and cooling systems; smart monitoring devices installed in fleet vehicles including school buses; and even so called “personal area networks” that could include everything from health monitoring to keeping track of individuals who are under house arrest.

This realm of new devices almost immediately impacts an associated landscape – mobile devices and mobile networks. Mobile territory is no longer limited to tablets, smartphones and Wi-Fi systems. It now includes broad discussions about closing that last mile to the vast array of IoT devices that are popping up in this country. Mobile networks that have been installed to handle this traffic can include a variety of small cell networks, ranging from industrial-grade Wi-Fi systems, to 3G and 4G LTE cell towers and smaller points of presence, to other highly focused mobile network solutions.

In short, government agencies are discovering that they may need to upgrade their mobile backhaul networks. (The “backhaul” is the part of a network that includes links between the core or backbone portions of a network and various subnetworks serving the edge of the network’s reach.)

To support all of this, government and education organizations are finding that they may need to make enterprise architecture changes before they can support a widening array of external IT services.

Public Sector IT Shawn Blog

In turn, all of these connections to government backhaul networks and new data sources are having an impact on cloud-based solutions that are rapidly coming to the forefront at public sector organizations. New data and new solutions are the easiest things to move to the cloud, so that’s where IDC is seeing the expansion.

Exactly what the enterprise architecture changes will depend on many things, including legacy systems now in use at each location, desire for specific types of mobile functionality, what types of IoT devices will be in use, and more. But these discussions need to take place, and there is a clear indication that automated solutions are preferred, when possible.

After our study was completed, we spent time with Cisco, discussing the concept of application-aware networks. This technology provides better (and often highly automated) network optimization and control, with a new focus on network capacity management and planning. Many of these benefits are trigged by an awareness of application usage and performance across the network, including an awareness of the data created by edge devices.

The IoT is triggering quite the avalanche of changes across many networks, including those managed by public sector organizations. It’s a brave new world of computing, but, when properly managed, it does not have to be a haphazard evolution.


Shawn P. McCathy

IDC Government Insights Research Director

U.S. Government IT Infrastructure Strategies