3 Steps for IT Modernization in Government and Education

To meet the mandate for modernization, public sector organizations must optimize infrastructure across the digital core, ecosystems and edge

Don Wiggins
3 Steps for IT Modernization in Government and Education

Today’s public sector organizations face a variety of challenges, including pursuing their missions on a global scale, keeping up with a complex cyber-threat landscape, navigating supply chain complexities and providing a better user experience. Savvy public sector leaders recognize they can’t face these new challenges using old technology.

Many of these organizations—including federal government, state and local government and education agencies—are also facing outside pressure to modernize their IT systems. For instance, the Office of Management and Budget released its Information Technology Operating Plan in June 2022 to advance four key priorities for federal agencies: cybersecurity, IT modernization, digital-first customer experience and data as a strategic asset.[1] While the mandate to modernize is clear, the question of how to do it is less obvious.

The legacy IT systems many public sector organizations rely on today simply weren’t built to meet the challenges and opportunities they’ll face in the future. Instead, these organizations need to replace those systems with globally distributed, interconnected digital infrastructure, thus helping them get closer to end users and applications, wherever their mission objectives may take them.

Organizations must also take a smart, strategic approach to deploying digital infrastructure in order to make the most of taxpayer resources and ensure their initial investment continues to deliver value over the long term.

Graphic comparing Before and after interconnection

At Equinix, we believe there are three distinct steps that all organizations should follow to optimize their digital infrastructure:

  1. Modernize the digital core
  2. Connect to digital ecosystems
  3. Operationalize at the digital edge

There are many reasons it makes sense for government to get out of the data center business. Perhaps the most important one is that IT infrastructure built around traditional owned-and-operated data centers tends to be rigid and centralized. As a result, organizations won’t be agile or flexible enough to take advantage of the latest technologies or localize data traffic to reduce latency and improve network performance.

Public sector organizations can take the first step toward modernizing IT by working with a vendor-neutral colocation partner such as Equinix to augment or even replace their existing on-premises IT infrastructure. Our close partnerships with all major cloud providers help us enable cloud-adjacent infrastructure for our customers. By deploying their digital core close to the cloud—but not in the cloud—organizations can take advantage of cloud services from multiple providers on demand, while also avoiding vendor lock-in and high data egress fees.

Deploying on Platform Equinix® also gives public sector organizations the flexibility to geographically distribute new core infrastructure based on the strategic needs of the organization. This is thanks to our global footprint of 240+ Equinix IBX® data centers, many of them home to cloud on-ramps from top providers. As the diagram below shows, the Equinix approach to cloud-adjacent infrastructure enables a complete edge-to-cloud approach. Equinix customers can store data copies in a centralized, authoritative repository, and then move data to and from the cloud and edge as needed using Equinix Fabric®, our software-defined interconnection service, and Network Edge, our portfolio of virtual network devices from top providers.

Connect to digital ecosystems

In today’s interconnected world, it’s simply not possible to pursue IT modernization as a single organization working in a silo. You need to find the right partners and service providers to support your specific mission requirements—whether that means private companies in your digital supply chain or other public sector agencies that serve as your mission partners. Then, you must be able to interconnect and exchange data with those partners in all the right places.

The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) 2023, a market study published by Equinix, illustrates the vital role that ecosystems play in the modern digital economy. The GXI forecasts that interconnection bandwidth—a measure of the amount of data exchanged between ecosystem partners inside vendor-neutral colocation data centers—will increase at a five-year CAGR of 40% globally. This growth will happen because more organizations are embracing ecosystems as a key part of their digital-first strategies. This is why we like to say that “your ecosystem is now your infrastructure.”

At Equinix, we’re proud to help our customers interconnect with the right partners in the right places. Neutrality has been a part of our company DNA from the very beginning. Rather than pushing our customers toward particular vendors, we give them a place to interconnect with the partners that best meet their particular needs, whoever they may be.

We’re able to offer maximum choice and flexibility around ecosystem partners because we already have more than 10,000 customers, including 3,000+ cloud and IT service providers and 2,100+ network service providers. Regardless of which partners you need to interconnect with, there’s a very good chance they’re already deployed at Equinix. Customers can choose between cloud-native and cloud-adjacent digital services on a case-by-case basis.

Ecosystem partnerships will play an essential role in unlocking new capabilities and speed across the global digital landscape. Direct, private interconnection services such as Equinix Fabric allow partners to exchange data with one another quicker, more securely and more reliably than the public internet. Using the Equinix Fabric customer portal, customers can set or update virtual connections to the ecosystem partners of their choice in a matter of seconds, giving them the flexibility and agility needed to thrive in the digital era.

Operationalize at the digital edge

Once you’ve deployed a modern digital core and begun to interconnect with ecosystem partners, you’ll be able to pursue transformative new opportunities at the digital edge. This includes leveraging digital services and hybrid infrastructure to ensure cost-efficiency, optimize performance and future-proof the organization via ongoing innovation. Deploying infrastructure in proximity to major population centers around the world helps you keep data close to the end users and applications that need to consume that data. Optimizing for proximity keeps latency low, thus enabling modern applications and improving the user experience for both employees and end users.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) and automation are examples of use cases that depend on edge infrastructure, due to their requirements for extremely low latency. To get the full value of AI/ML and automation, organizations must train models using a constant stream of data from diverse sources. Moving all that data back and forth over long distances simply isn’t practical. To minimize latency and ensure models are always trained using the most recent data, organizations need edge compute infrastructure in proximity to data sources.

As mentioned previously, deploying a cloud-adjacent digital core is the first step toward enabling a complete edge-to-cloud approach. This could include deploying Equinix Metal®, our Bare Metal as a Service solution, to quickly and flexibly get the compute and storage capacity you need to support use cases at the edge, regardless of exactly where your digital edge might be located.

Finally, deploying distributed digital infrastructure will logically create a larger attack surface that needs to be protected. To create a secure edge, public sector agencies must accept they can no longer rely on a traditional security perimeter, where users and devices inside the perimeter are trusted and those outside are not. Instead, they need a zero-trust security strategy, where all users are considered untrustworthy until proven otherwise. The Equinix partner ecosystem includes leading security service providers, while our Network Edge portfolio offers virtual firewalls, VPNs and SD-WAN gateways. You can quickly deploy these services and devices wherever you need them to build a secure edge.

Take the first step toward IT modernization with Equinix

At Equinix, we can’t tell you where to deploy your digital core, which ecosystem partners to interconnect with or which use cases to pursue at the digital edge. We know our customers are the best judge of their own IT modernization priorities. It’s our job to assemble the right places, partners and possibilities on one platform, empowering our customers to put their modernization strategies into action.

To get started, contact us today to schedule a Digital Strategy Briefing. An Equinix expert will meet with you to analyze your organization’s mission and strategic objectives, and then help you plan a roadmap to optimize your digital strategy across core, ecosystems and edge.


[1]Information Technology Operating Plan,” Office of Management and Budget, June 2022.

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