Federal IT Initiatives Promise to Reduce Costs, but Hurdles Persist

The majority of survey respondents note that network issues such as poor connections impact their agency mission at least bimonthly.

Federal agencies are making progress on a series of key IT initiatives–consolidation, virtualization, cloud computing, remote access and infrastructure diversification–but are leaving a significant amount of money on the table, according to a report from the public-private partnership MeriTalk.

The survey of 300 federal network managers, underwritten by Brocade and conducted in February 2014, advised that by fully leveraging all five initiatives, network managers believe they could save 24 percent of their IT budgets–or approximately a combined $19.7 billion annually–more than double their current savings.

Just 14 percent of agencies have completed virtualization initiatives, thus missing out on another $2.7 billion in possible savings, according to the report.

In addition, federal agencies have the most to gain with cloud computing, as only 9 percent of respondents are fully deployed–leaving a collective $3.2 billion up for grabs.

"The network is the yellow brick road," Stephen O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, said in a statement. "It’s in disrepair–pot holes and puddles. If Uncle Sam doesn’t make repairs, we’ll never get to Oz–or realize the savings potential of IT transformation."

The majority of survey respondents note that network issues such as poor connections, service disruptions or down time impact their agency mission at least bimonthly.

On average, respondents say that they would need to increase capacity by 26 percent to support these five key infrastructure initiatives and realize long-term savings.

Federal agencies are making what the report called "notable" progress with remote access and consolidation initiatives, with 70 percent and 62 percent, respectively, partially or fully deployed.

However, while agencies identify consolidation as the greatest savings opportunity, they currently are only capturing 40 percent of potential savings.

"The U.S. federal government has the potential to drive an additional $11.2 billion in annual savings by fully leveraging consolidation, virtualization, cloud computing, remote access and infrastructure diversification," said Anthony Robbins, vice president of Brocade’s federal division. "Agencies should focus on the network to improve capacity, connections, reliability and security, and consider moving systems and applications to the cloud to generate additional savings."

The report also warned agencies also must accelerate cloud computing, virtualization and infrastructure diversification deployments to drive savings.

While respondents agree additional vendor competition would reduce IT acquisition, service and maintenance costs, very few agencies–just 15 percent–are fully diversified.

In addition, existing networks appear to be presenting a significant barrier to more efficient deployment of these technologies.

While respondents identify the network as the IT infrastructure component most vital to enabling efficiencies and cost-savings opportunities, two-thirds of federal network managers say their networks are ill-equipped to meet their mission needs, let alone support new technology initiatives.