It’s a converged world for many Federal data centers, and that trend is likely to continue as agencies move to modernize their information technology infrastructures.

For more than a decade, the Federal government has engaged in several efforts to transition to a more efficient, more secure, and customer-centric IT environment. At the same time, various government-wide initiatives and policies have focused on improving acquisition processes to give agencies access to more innovative solutions and technologies.

Hyper-Converged Infrastructures (HCI), which tightly integrates software-defined computer, storage, networking, and virtualization resources in a hardware box supported by a single vendor, can help agencies move away from siloed systems and applications toward more consolidated, modern, and secure data center infrastructures.

“We are observing rapid adoption of HCI primarily because of its simplicity to deploy and operate,” said Kirk Kern, chief technology officer at NetApp, a leading storage and data management company. “We find data center managers, programmers, or even mission managers with little IT experience are using HCI to rapidly deploy new services.”

Research backs up Kern’s assessment. Fifty-nine percent of Federal IT officials surveyed by MeriTalk in August 2017 said converged infrastructure solutions are part of their agency’s current data center strategy, and 23 percent have multiple converged solutions in place.

For many Federal IT managers, data center workload, data, and user demands have increased over the last three years. As a result, 58 percent say their agency’s current data centers are struggling to keep up with that demand, according to the report Converged: At the Core of IT All. MeriTalk conducted an online survey of 150 Federal IT managers–split evenly between converged users and nonusers–to understand agency perceptions of converged infrastructure solutions.

Adoption efforts align with data center consolidation and optimization goals mandated by the Federal Government’s Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI), which requires agencies to consolidate inefficient infrastructure, update existing facilities, boost security, save money, and transition to cloud services or interagency shared services. Sixty percent of the Federal IT managers surveyed are leveraging converged infrastructures to replace working data centers, 57 percent to replace end-of-life data centers, and 35 percent to establish data center solutions for the first time.

Agencies that have adopted converged infrastructure solutions are seeing improved efficiency and mission success, according to the report. HCI solutions’ proven ability to improve operational efficiency in data centers has prompted the General Services Administration (GSA) to give agencies more options as they modernize their data centers.

Last December, GSA announced the availability of the Nutanix’s Hyperconverged Cloud Infrastructure platform to agencies. The HCI platform is offered under GSA’s Enterprise Software Category contract with Carahsoft Technology. Ten distinct HCI products from Nutanix cover most common HCI applications and will let agencies simplify their data centers and transition away from legacy infrastructures to a more operationally efficient, modern, and optimized platform, according to GSA officials. The HCI offerings will not only help agencies meet DCOI requirements, but also those stipulated by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) and the government’s cloud-first initiative, as well. HCI solutions are the core infrastructure for building cloud technologies.

But a word of caution for agencies utilizing converged infrastructures and those considering the move to HCI platforms. Beware of the simplicity associated with deploying HCI solutions.

NetApp’s Kern noted, “this simplicity can lead to overlap of services and siloed inefficiencies because we are observing HCI clusters deployed per workload.” Traditionally, agencies have gone directly from strategy to architecture design, he noted.

However, “to be successful in today’s transition to the digitally connected world, whether deploying solid state storage solutions or cloud technology, the IT within the agencies must connect technology to the mission or agency-wide processes,” Kern explained.

Service design running on converged or HCI is supposed to bridge the gap between technology and mission. “It enables IT to function like a service provider and operate under a delivery model that reduces costs while improving performance and agility,” Kern said.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.