Government virtualization: a quick guide

Jul 08, 2015

Virtual Servers.jpgGovernment organizations of all levels are making the shift to virtualized desktop environments, with federal agencies leading the way. The Joint Staff at the Pentagon made the effort to convert to a virtualized desktop model in 2014, and the U.S. Army is now making that switch, according to Federal Times. There are distinct advantages of government virtualization. Here is a quick guide:

Increased productivity
With virtualized servers, employees can quickly and easily access work information from anywhere at anytime. In addition, network updates become a snap. In an interview with Federal Times, Gregory Garcia, the director of the U.S. Army Information Technology Agency, claimed that productivity was one of the main benefits of government virtualization.

“You can imagine with a population of 20,000 to 30,000 computers in the Pentagon, [application patches] will take days, weeks and months,” Garcia said. “So when I was in the Air Force, we were able to go from 27 days to patch to three days by doing it on the network. What you can do with VDI is to go to minutes and seconds. And that’s a huge benefit in terms of labor and cybersecurity.”

Garcia also mentioned that equipment refreshes can be done within the virtual environment without needing to make changes on every single piece of equipment in the network – because the changes can all be made virtually, increasing security and reducing energy consumption.

Cost savings
Desktop virtualization can help federal, state and local governments stay within budget and maximize the use of public funds for projects intended to improve community engagement. One important way savings can be gleaned is through the reduction of energy consumption. According to the Federal Energy Management Program, in 2013, federal data centers used about 5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, accounting for 10 percent of federal electricity use. Virtualization efforts can bring down the number of physical servers, curtailing energy use and allowing saved money to go toward other important projects.

Government agencies should remember to protect their virtualized environments just as stringently they would physical servers, if not more so. According to CIO contributor Kenneth Corbin, it’simportant to note a possible increased risk when servers become virtual or when workloads move to the cloud. Making sure security remains a top priority should be high on IT managers’ to-do lists for the foreseeable future. However, virtualization itself can also increase security in the same regard. When there is only one network to protect, efforts can be better concentrated.

Category: Cybersecurity