How SteelFusion Powers the Largest Enterprise of All: The Federal Government
As far as enterprises go, they don't get much larger than the agencies of the U.S. federal government, which operate all around the world — often in challenging conditions. Last month we highlighted a video that revealed how the software-defined edge of Riverbed SteelFusion can assist these massive organizations achieve their objectives, and the topic was so interesting we thought we'd delve into it further.
Riverbed Connections sought out Raushni Gupta, Riverbed's senior manager of product marketing and an expert in cyber-security focusing on federal deployments. Gupta works directly with federal clients and possesses a deep understanding of how SteelFusion can solve the challenges they face both administrating large, strictly regulated organizations and conducting field operations in far-flung locales.
“Military personnel rely on their information systems for mission success — everything that we do sitting in an office they have to do in the middle of nowhere with no wall to plug into!’’
Raushni Gupta | Riverbed
Why the Federal government chooses SteelFusion
Speaking with Gupta, one might intuit that the federal government is a very demanding customer.
"The fact is," says, Gupta, "federal agencies demand missions be fast, reliable, and secure. They require ways to get information to and from the people who need it regardless of local conditions and terrain considerations."
In the most serious situations, the absence of these factors can put those most vulnerable at greater risk. She notes that while this is a "unique" enterprise deployment, federal agencies use SteelFusion capabilities available to other customers for similar pain points. However, the nature of the work often leads to higher real-world stakes.
Ultimately, she explains, four key capabilities ideally position Riverbed SteelFusion in these unique scenarios. These are:
- Size, weight, and power considerations (SWaP)
- Disaster recovery
- Data protection
- Local performance
We further discussed how each one played into the scenarios featured in last month's video.
Small, ruggedized, and in the field
Let's consider the video's example of a warfighter team on a tactical-edge employment in hostile territory (talk about real-world pain points). In remote regions when their SATCOM isn't entirely reliable, they endure what's called a "disconnected operation."
"Military personnel rely on their information systems for mission success — everything that we do sitting in an office they have to do in the middle of nowhere with no wall to plug into!," says Gupta.
How is this even possible?
It starts with the size, weight, and power qualities of the SteelFusion solution, which in its "ruggedized tactical edge" military form can fit into the armored equivalent of an airplane roll-on suitcase. This means troops can feasibly carry it with them at all times, or have it installed in a Humvee's electronics rack.
While all new field data is continuously sent back to a central and secure datacenter for safe keeping, the unique ISC — Intelligent Storage Cache — built into SteelFusion pulls the working set of data required to optimally run local operations.
With a WAN outage, military personnel will see no difference in performance, and more likely than not, the WAN will be back up before any issue. However, there is also the ability to pin critical data to the edge unit so that it is available offline no matter how long the WAN outage may be. And yes, when the WAN returns, SteelFusion automatically syncs all the changes it's logged back to headquarters
SteelFusion's data protection capabilities are also important to this work. Its minimal edge data footprint, near real-time backup, and FIPS 140-2 encryption of all information at rest and in flight ensure that even if an adversary obtained the appliance, they'd be unable to extract any useful data from it.
Continuity in the face of disaster
The video also touched on the work of federal disaster recovery organizations who are tasked with deploying to disaster zones and reestablishing order amid demolished infrastructure
"Agencies need to continue to perform their mission-essential functions (MEFs) and primary mission-essential functions (PMEFs) during a wide range of disasters and emergencies," says Gupta.
Once again, SteelFusion's near real-time data sync and datacenter backup minimizes data loss. And instant provisioning means it's just a matter of minutes, not days, to spin up new sites and beat the most aggressive RPO and RTO requirements for continued operations.
Protecting the golden image
Of course, not all government work is so dramatic, but SteelFusion has its place there, too.
One example, also featured in the video, revolves around the thousands of sites and end-users the Department of Defense must administer. Regulations require all users to run the same Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC), a "golden image" that ensures strict compliance with operational and security mandates. It's a classic IT problem, but at a larger than usual scale.
"It's not easy to push patches to and collect metrics from so many endpoints, some of which are far afield and prone to disconnection," says Gupta. "In this case, SteelFusion can locally host the golden image at the remote site. The VMware Horizon server has a user pool configured that points the remote site users to their local VDI server running on SteelFusion."
This way you can have an Active Directory server, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), and other local office services running onsite in SteelFusion to support disconnected operations.
According to Gupta, the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) arms of government — "the three-letter agencies" — also use SteelFusion to help achieve information dominance with its ability to aggregate and process information rapidly, granting streamlined decision making and operational efficiency required by next-gen command and control systems.
Thanks to Raushni Gupta for delving into the details for us. If SteelFusion's software-defined edge IT can scale up to meet the demanding requirements of the feds, well, what can't it do?