Virtualization Takes Hold in Government AgenciesBy Sharon Linsenbach | Posted 2009-06-26 Email Print
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Government customers are increasingly turning to virtualization solutions to slash costs, increase efficiency and tighten security, according to findings from CDW.
CDW is seeing an increase in interest and deployment of server and desktop virtualization among government customers, but solution providers looking to tap into the space should be aware of the benefits and the pitfalls.
Government customers are increasingly turning to virtualization solutions to slash costs, increase efficiency and tighten security, according to findings from CDW, and solution providers targeting the government vertical stand to benefit from the growing interest in virtualization solutions.Dan Griggs, CDW Virtualization Solutions
Architect, says that the government space quickly tapped into server virtualization to reduce server footprints, reduce power and cooling requirements and help systems run more efficiently. "Government customers saw this as the best way to achieve a number of cost- and efficiency savings at once, but there are still a number of agencies that haven’t gone down this path, meaning there’s still room for growth," Griggs says.
For agencies that have adopted server virtualization technologies but are still looking for more ways to streamline operations and lock down security, desktop virtualization may be the next step, Griggs says.
"We are seeing many customers trying out desktop virtualization solutions on classified networks to increase security and efficiency," Griggs says.
One of the major issues government agencies face is the issue of 'classified spillage,’ when data is moved from highly classified networks to less secure systems. In many instances, this happens inadvertently and with no malice on the part of employees, Griggs says, it’s simply how users make data and documents easier to work with.
"Many end-users will download information or documents onto their local machine to more easily work with it," he says. "So for the agencies, the issue becomes how to get that critical data off of users’ desktops?"
Desktop virtualization can help by maintaining one central location for data storage. As users work with data and documents, it’s saved not to their own local machine, but to a centralized, more secure back-end system, reducing the exposure of that data.
"How many times have you gotten an email with an attachment, and you took a copy of that attachment and saved it onto your local drive?" Griggs asks. "Now it’s in your e-mail, it’s on your local drive, maybe you modified it and then saved a different version of it to another folder," he says. This resulting duplication can increase the amount of data stored, and tax storage requirements. Desktop virtualization can incorporate deduplication technologies to ensure there’s only one master copy of data or documents saved, reducing overall storage capacity and costs.
Desktop virtualization can also cut down on patch management failure rates, which average 10 percent, Griggs says.
"There’s a fairly standard failure rate when you patch, so you have to go out to individual desktops and actually touch each one to ensure patches are applied successfully," he says. "Desktop virtualization cuts that failure rate, because patches are only applied to one instance of software, which is referred to as the 'golden image,’" he says.
But with all the positives associated with virtualization – desktop and server both – there are some concerns, Griggs says.
Many agencies jumped onto the virtualization bandwagon without considering if the technology could even be beneficial to them, Griggs says, and many didn’t do sufficient research to determine if a particular vendor’s solution fit their needs. "Many folks jumped at this before they did their homework," he says. "Solutions that work for one agency aren’t going to work for the other, and just because it’s a big-name solution doesn’t mean it’s the right one."
Finally, Griggs says, education is key for agencies that decide to implement any virtualization solution. If end-users and/or customers aren't backing the solution, agencies could end up spending far more money, time and resources to do extensive training and 'appeasement,’ Griggs says.
"How many times have you experienced this at your job – that they put a new piece of software in place, or develop a new process that is more complicated than the old one? And if you were used to the older ones, if you didn’t get notice it was coming, if training wasn’t done right, it can be extremely frustrating," he says.
"End users and customers need to understand the technology first, then figure out how it benefits them, and only then can they get excited about it and actually want it," he says.