Even before the coronavirus pandemic jolted Federal agencies into a crash course on network modernization, the Federal CIO Council had cooked up its prescient “Networks of the Future” white paper that lays out next-generation network technologies and strategies that provide a roadmap for agencies in the post-pandemic era.

Steven Hernandez, Education Department chief information security officer and one of the project leaders of the CIO Council’s work on government networks, talked about the white paper’s insights and recommendations during a June 9 keynote speech at FCW’s Network Modernization Workshop.

He explained that the CIO Council considered the white paper’s content to be urgent at the time of its publication, and as pandemic conditions set in, the council was proven correct in its assessments. “This paper provides a high-level overview of the technologies and policies that affect network modernization and security,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez specified four vital recommendations from the report: surveying the technology landscape and understanding market offerings; incorporating pilots and knowledge sharing into existing network modernization strategies; investing in upskilling of network managers to take advantage of emerging technologies; and collaborating with stakeholders to meet acquisition milestones.

“The future of networks is ubiquitous connectivity, greater speeds, and more connected devices that will enable new services to customers and citizens,” said Hernandez.

The report also talks about developing trends in emerging technologies such as AI and ML, new IoT devices, and the rise of the mobile workforce requires new approaches to manage, automate, and secure networks. The two most significant networking trends on the horizon are the emergence of 5G mobile networks, and the increasing adoption of Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN).

Hernandez explained that modernization is vital, but also that understanding available capabilities is crucial to leveraging more modern technologies.

SD-WAN connects an organization’s separate locations for users running cloud applications or relying on open internet via mobile devices, and if an agency is already using the cloud, there’s a good chance they already deal with SD-WAN, Hernandez explained.

Further, he said, a software-defined environment is also necessary to implement zero trust security concepts that are a central tenet of the Biden’s administration’s directions to Federal agencies in the White House’s recent cybersecurity executive order.

“The future is exhilarating right now, and with all of this, we have a great vote of confidence from Congress in our IT and security modernization,” Hernandez said. “We are also very excited about the next iteration of what network modernization will bring not just for network performance, but for security as well.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.