Imagine that a branch of the military is conducting an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission against an adversary. Video intelligence, reports from social media and other data-intensive sources determine that the adversary is amassing manpower and supplies, indicative of moving to a new location. The intelligence needs to be sent to military decision-makers quickly — a matter of minutes may make the difference between stopping the adversary or losing lives. With the right network in place, intelligence from the battlefield can be transferred to decision-makers thousands of miles away.

While the military and intelligence communities work with treasure troves of data that must be reliably accessible, agencies simultaneously have been mandated to consolidate and optimize data centers for cost efficiency. The Department of Defense has prioritized data center optimization and is continuing to push consolidation efforts, with DoD Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen recently announcing a plan to physically evaluate each of its data centers. Guidance from recent initiatives like the Data Center Optimization Initiative and approaches like flash can help DoD drive data center efficiency; yet in many cases legacy storage networks act as a bottleneck in data center environments.

This doesn't need to be the case — there is great innovation occurring in the realm of storage networking. To support today's data-intensive IT environments, coupled with the demand for data center optimization, agencies need storage networks that promote full visibility, deliver efficiency-driving automation and support tomorrow's storage innovation, including flash.

Offer optimal, reliable performance with full visibility

Defense agencies' data center environments require network resilience that goes beyond eliminating downtime to also ensuring consistently high performance. Any sort of network degradation can jeopardize the mission, potentially losing many lives. Storage networks can offer comprehensive visibility into application performance, even with the complexity introduced by digital transformation. Visibility allows the agencies to avoid performance-related problems, increasing reliability in the most critical scenarios.

Visibility also enhances security, a significant pain point within defense networks. Heightened visibility makes it possible to provide granular information that can identify if a breach is occurring on the edges of a defense agency's infrastructure.

Seek comprehensive automation

Automation can make the most of end-to-end visibility, using intelligence gathered through network monitoring to identify potential problem areas and automatically address them before application performance is impacted. This is particularly important in the defense space where application failure could mean the inability to access mission-critical intelligence.

Automation addresses another important consideration for defense — cost. Automated testing and diagnostic tools can eliminate nearly 50 percent of maintenance costs, significantly cutting unnecessary spending.

Prepare for tomorrow's innovation

Flash storage offers one of the most efficient, reliable options for data storage. With the costs of flash storage decreasing, it is an ideal option for the defense community's infrastructure needs.

Unfortunately, in many instances, defense networks are based on legacy infrastructure and this does not harness the full capabilities of flash. It's like driving a Ferrari in rush-hour traffic. Powered by Fibre Channel protocols, modern storage networks optimize flash-based data centers to ensure that they're high performing, always available, secure and cost-effective.

As defense organizations are challenged to simultaneously consolidate data centers and manage more information than ever before, selecting the right storage network to support digital transformation and data center optimization efforts can be simple. Storage networks pave the road to data center modernization and efficient government IT. Consolidating and optimizing is not just about meeting mandates. It's about delivering the data and intelligence to meet defense missions, knowing that efficiency and performance could mean the difference between mission success and a potentially dangerous mission failure.

Stephen Wallo is Brocade's chief technology officer for United States Federal Sales, responsible for articulating Brocade's innovations, strategies and architectures in the rapidly evolving IT market. He has more than 26 years of experience designing and integrating data center networks and storage and server systems for the federal government.