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Survey: Federal IT desperate for upgrade

Posted By Judy Bradt, Summit Insight, Tuesday, January 18, 2011
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of an online survey of federal information technology leaders released Tuesday reiterated what many already knew: Outdated applications permeate federal computer networks, threatening agencies' capabilities. 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:
A 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 modernize."

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

Tags:  IT  Small Business Opportunities  Washington Business Journal 

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