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Two Thirds of Feds IT have Concerns in Data Center Modernization


February 02, 2015

It is almost impossible these days to comment on anything going on in tech without bringing in security.  Whether it is in regards to the pilfering of personal information from retailers, rogue state and terrorist hacking and ransomware, or fears about the Internet of Things (IoT) being stymied because of cyberthreats real and imagined, there is little doubt that security by necessity now pervades “E”verything.  In fact, as the title of this says, cybersecurity concerns now are rightfully at the top of the list of U.S. Federal IT decision makers along with topping the list of their commercial IT colleagues.

If you are looking for confirmation of just how important a concern this is the place to look is a new report, “Heart of the Network: Data Center Defense,”  from MeriTalk,  a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT, and one of my go-to resources. The study, underwritten by Palo Alto Networks, looks at cyber security data center health and the picture is not pretty. 

Using the analogy of the data center being the heart of IT, the study found that that 67 percent of U.S. Feds respondents are very concerned with cybersecurity as they modernize data centers. In fact, and this is something for IT departments regardless of whom they serve, 49 percent of Feds agree that cybersecurity becomes more challenging due to the data center modernization process.  And, as the graphic from the report illustrates the concerns about security during modernization are across the board.

Source:  MeriTalk report,  “Heart of the Network: Data Center Defense.” (click to enlarge)

Fed IT under attack

As MeriTalk explains, since“This study provides an FDCCI cyber security EKG”

2009, the number of reported breaches on U.S. Federal computer networks has nearly doubled. U.S. Feds report their top data center security concerns are: depicted below:

Although 72 percent of U.S. Feds give their agency a grade of “A” or “B” for efforts to maintain security throughout the modernization process, more than half of respondents say they’re missing key security measures like automation, mobile device management, and endpoint security management.

“Many agencies have focused security efforts at the perimeter,” says Steve Hoffman, vice president, regional sales, Federal, Palo Alto Networks. “But, as we consider increasingly sophisticated cyber security attacks, all government agencies need a platform approach to protect the heart of their network – the data center – while safely enabling business applications. They need to be able to correlate known and new threats and take preventative action, not just detect and remediate.”

One of the reasons to really keep an eye on what the Feds are doing is as a gauge to assess their progress in meeting the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) goals and complete the modernization process of Federal IT.  The report found that:  41 percent believe integration will prove to be the top cybersecurity challenge. When considering improvement areas, 70 percent of U.S. Feds have doubts about their data centers’ security within the data center fabric.

 “This study provides an FDCCI cyber security EKG,” says Steve O’Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. “Clearly cyberthreats continue to give agencies heart palpitations in their data centers.”

Keeping up with the bad guys and providing better peace of mind for Fed IT will not be easy.  However, if there is good news it is that policy makers in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government at least agree that the U.S. needs a modern ICT infrastructure and that security has to be a top, if not the top, consideration as modernization happens particularly in regard to what truly is the heart of the operations, the data center.

It will certainly be interesting to see in future reports how much the percentages change and how fast.  Those on the front lines have voiced their concerns, whether they can and will be addressed in a timely manner is an open question. 




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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