Article by Jill Aitoro, Washington Business Journal
, Tuesday Jan 11th
Findings of an online survey of federal information technology
leaders released Tuesday reiterated what many already knew: Outdated
applications permeate federal computer networks, threatening agencies'
According to a report released by Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys Corp.,
nearly half (47 percent) of existing federal IT applications are based
on older technologies that require $35.7 billion annually to maintain;
that's nearly half of the federal IT budget, the report pointed out.
Four out of five of the 166 federal IT leaders surveyed said that if
their agency does not modernize, their "mission-critical capabilities"
will be threatened.
"We want graceful degradation of older systems that are ready for
retirement, and modernization of systems that are necessary to support
critical functions," said Mark Cohn, chief technology
officer of Unisys' federal systems division, which has a Reston office.
Contractors are key to enabling modernization, he added, since they
built a lot of these applications in the first place.
But despite widespread acknowledgment that older systems could have a
detrimental impact, only one in three federal IT leaders say
application modernization is a top priority.
Part of the problem, Cohn
said, is that agencies typically consider one of two options:
rip-and-replace strategy that swaps out old systems for new ones, or
maintaining the legacy application — as is — until it eventually fails.
The former option is often deemed too expensive, despite significant
long-term costs associated with the latter.
"What can we do to make progress incrementally and quickly without a
major upfront investment and commitment that is hard to justify?," he
asked. "There needs to be an understanding of what capabilities these
applications provide, so we can judge which are best candidates to
retire and where there may be opportunities to consolidate or
Contractors could transition aging applications from the agency's own IT infrastructure to the cloud, but Peter Gallagher,
a partner in Unisys' federal civilian group, warns that cloud computing
won't solve the problem unless the specific needs of the agencies are
addressed and efficiency improved along the way.
"There's a car wreck coming if we don't figure out how to solve this
problem," he said. "We have all of these new technologies the government
wants, but first these back-office systems that run core services have
to be addressed. The longer we put it off the more trouble we're going
to be in."
Access the full report here.
Read more: Survey: Federal IT desperate for upgrade | Washington Business Journal