Are All Optical Networks Created Equal?

February 23, 2016

Wray Varley Headshot Solid BackgroundBy Wray Varley, Vice President of Government Sales

I was recently asked an interesting question, “What makes government optical networks different from enterprise optical networks?” On the surface, one might think that an IT network is an IT network – all just made of fiber cables and equipment. At its most basic definition, that is true. But the people who operate and maintain government networks understand that there are important nuances to consider in the government IT environment – key when influencing a government agency’s ability to perform various missions.

While containing costs is always top of mind, for many government agencies network uptime is a bigger priority. When network downtime can mean the difference between life and death for our armed services personnel, first responders, and the citizens they protect, the government needs networks with superior, proven reliability.

Government agencies must also factor in a network’s ease of use, the ability to change traffic patterns and the ability to scale bandwidth on a moment’s notice. World crises demand changes and scale with no prior notice, causing the need for real-time expandability. Budget constraints can delay technology refreshes or network re-caps sometimes beyond the timeframes that are considered industry standard. This can result in a network architecture being in place for seven or more years, during which time the demands on the network may increase exponentially. For many government agencies, it is mission critical that they install networks that can easily scale to support quickly expanding bandwidth requirements for years to come.

Similar to other network operators, the government’s push to move to the cloud is the latest X-factor in the selection of a network architecture. Whether an agency is utilizing a Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) certified provider or simply consolidating their own data centers, the volume of data being collected, analyzed, and stored in cloud environments is growing at an unprecedented pace. To transport those terabits of data between, and often within, their cloud environments, agencies need very high-bandwidth yet cost and power-efficient equipment in place.

And with cybersecurity top of mind, supply chains are increasingly under scrutiny, as evidenced by the dozens of related bills and provisions in legislation around the topic.

For those of us who support our nation’s government agencies and the Department of Defense, these issues are all critical. Government agencies need to consider the following when preparing to upgrade or procure a network, either directly or through a carrier provider:

  • World-class quality – What is the proven reliability of the equipment being procured or utilized to provide a network or service? And what is the validation of that reliability?
  • Technology – What technologies are being utilized? Is the technology targeted for the mission critical needs, especially in the areas of advanced and innovative technologies?
  • Network scalability – If more bandwidth is required, how long will it take to scale to meet those needs?
  • Supply Chain – Where is the equipment (and the associated electronics) manufactured?

I encourage government agencies to go one step further when researching and making decisions on a network deployment or expansion. Seek out the latest technologies like photonic integrated circuits, optical transport networking and software defined networking. Learn how these technologies can enable the best possible solution now, and into the future.

For more information, contact us, because not all networks are created equal.

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