Sep 03 2018

EIS Will Help Agencies Focus Less on Networks and More on Mission, Officials Say

The General Services Administration’s massive networking contract promises to make network security and connectivity less complicated.

Agencies are hard at work with the General Services Administration to transition to the GSA’s $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract, which is designed to enable them to modernize their network infrastructures and embrace new architectures.

Top officials at the GSA and Office of Management and Budget have said that EIS represents an opportunity for agencies to engage in true “transformation” of their networks, and not just “lift and shift” or move to services under EIS that are similar to those they use now.

One of the architectures agencies have a chance to adopt through EIS is software-defined networking, which can deliver several benefits to agencies. First, by managing network settings and preferences through software instead of hardware, it allows agencies to simplify and automate network management, freeing up IT personnel to focus on more mission-critical tasks. SDN can also enhance agencies’ network security because it allows agencies to virtualize and replicate networks, enabling them to move resources and applications to another virtual network if one is compromised.

During an Aug. 23 FedInsider webinar, “Building & Securing Government’s Connected Future Through EIS,” federal IT officials discussed how they expect EIS to simplify network management. That will enable agencies to operate more modernized networks.

“It’s really just so important that we have this vehicle in place for modernization,” Kay Ely, the outgoing assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology category in the Federal Acquisition Service within GSA, said during the webinar, according to MeriTalk. “We tried to, and did, incorporate a lot of modernization and things that the agencies need in the contract itself.”

EIS Will Ease Network Management for Agencies

Participants in the webinar said EIS will enable them to shift how they secure and manage networks.

Gary Barlet, CIO of the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Postal Service, said it’s important for agencies to use their networks to secure access to essential information and not necessarily worry about the network path they use to access it.

“I don’t travel anymore without using a navigation app,” he said, according to MeriTalk. “I don’t necessarily worry about which road I’m on, what county I’m passing through, as long as I get from point A to point B, that’s what’s important to me. For my customers, that’s what important to them.”

The webinar participants also spoke about how EIS will let them focus less on network management and more on their core missions. “For us, we don’t have enough [resources] to cover down on all the missions we have,” said Leslie Perkins, deputy CTO for the Air Force Information Dominance, according to MeriTalk.

“We do a lot of different things, so in order to do a lot of different things, we have to have folks who are focused on the mission and not necessarily on doing the network and possibly providing all the security, except where it’s mission related,” she continued. “We’re revectoring and looking at … how do we get out of a business that we are not the best in, and get into the areas that, no kidding, are our primary jobs?

That mentality fits with the Air Force’s larger Enterprise IT as a Service shift, in which the service branch is looking to consolidate some IT functions and outsource others so that its IT personnel can focus less on day-to-day IT tasks and more on cybersecurity and technology related to mission areas.

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