Software-Defined & Cloud-Enabled: The Future of Networking for the Public Sector

BrandPost By Ken Hosac
Nov 17, 2017
Enterprise Applications

Improving Network Security & Ensuring Maximum Uptime

Public safety organizations require WAN connectivity that extends beyond the office to reach vehicles and first responders in the field, keeping them connected 24×7. Emergencies and dangerous situations can occur at a moment’s notice, and downtime is not an option when lives are at risk.  With dependable network connectivity, first responders no longer need to drive back and forth to headquarters to file reports or other sensitive documents, saving valuable time.

Forward-thinking public sector IT teams are seeking ways to upgrade their networks to reach this level of elasticity. With an always-on network complete with software-defined and cloud-enabled solutions, public safety can provide more services to the community without hiring more officers and deliver more adept technology opportunities without hiring more IT staff — all while operating on a limited budget. 

Cloud Management for Network Mobility & Remote IT Management

Cloud networking solutions keep first responders in the field, where they need to be, by providing a mobile LAN allowing them to connect to critical online applications and files from any geographical location. It also allows IT staff to manage the mobile networks from one central location. With cloud-managed networks, deploying firmware updates and configuration changes can be initiated and completed throughout the entire fleet at the same time in mere minutes, which eliminates the costs of having the IT team touch every vehicle.

4G LTE for Faster, More Affordable Networks That Reach More Locations

With 4G LTE, agencies can have reliable, flexible, cost-effective, and secure connectivity. It’s also easy to deploy and can reduce the complexity and management of the network. 4G LTE can handle real-time analytics, such as GPS location, so that headquarters can keep track of the officers and keep them safe.  Through 4G LTE, public sector agencies can take advantage of remote and zero-touch deployment and configuration, allowing additional financial savings with remote cloud management. Agencies can also choose to scale up or down according to their networking needs extremely quickly and easily.

Software-Defined WAN for 24×7 Connectivity 

For public sector branch locations, to help ensure a reliable network connection, Software-defined WANs (SD-WAN) allow multiple wireline or wireless links: for example, using MPLS with 4G LTE combined to select the ideal path to obtain the best networking outcome. One of the defining attributes of SD-WAN is the ability to automatically select the optimal path for any type of traffic at any moment in time and steer it accordingly, providing first responders the advanced communication technologies they need.  

Software-Defined Perimeter to Keep Sensitive Data Secure

Software-defined Perimeter (SD-P) provides increased network security for the highly private and sensitive data accessed by agencies to perform background checks and track criminal activity. SD-P uses a perimeter-secured, private overlay — or Virtual Cloud Network (VCN) — to connect devices to the headquarters Intranet. Each VCN has its own private IP address space so that it’s hidden from the exposure of the Internet, so sensitive data stays secure. It also provides an invitation-only network for fine-grain policy control with firewalling and filtering to regulate communications going in and out.

SD-P also provides a secure CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Service) compliant cloud for sharing data, for a higher standard of service. The proliferation of the Internet, cloud, and cyber security threats has driven the need for these security standards, and they must be adhered to for any public safety agency to meet security protocol.

Public sector departments are already reaping the benefits of Software-defined Networks and 4G LTE; here are a few use cases …

Ewing Police Department 

Ewing Police Department (EPD) manages a 30-vehicle fleet of police patrol vehicles. Before upgrading its network, the traditional IPsec VPN tunnels being used would disconnect if the cellular connection dropped, putting their critical applications at risk. EPD also needed to find a way to manage everything centrally and keep remote devices connected to the network to complete security and administrative tasks.

EPD replaced the VPN client with an SD-P solution to provide a secure, persistent network connection to its vehicles over LTE.  EPD also integrated GPS in the patrol cars and Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) to keep track of each patrol car. They were also able to securely connect their devices such as body cameras, tablets, and dashboard cameras — all of which require WiFi access. 

The SD-P solution also enables their Active Directory domains to be extended across the overlay — allowing officers to remain in the field while completing reports and correspondence. Additionally, the IT staff can manage the in-vehicle networks in each patrol car from one central location. The solution significantly reduces the time it takes to update software and equipment in each of the vehicles. All the updates happen in about three minutes, without the officers even aware, keeping them focused on their jobs.

The remote access and central control capabilities also enable the IT department to grant platform access to third parties. In particular, it allows the EPD to provide such access to its IT reseller so that vendors can go in and check settings on their own. 

Indianapolis Fire Department

The Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) consists of 1,200 fire personnel (with about a quarter of them out on duty at any given time), with a fleet of 43 fire engines and 22 ladder vehicles. It needed a consistent network connection during emergency situations; often just driving over a bump could knock the connection of the USB solution loose. IFD also needed the ability to complete firmware upgrades from a central location, which had become costly and time-prohibitive, making the IT team avoid them all together.

After deploying a cloud-based solution with always-on 4G LTE connectivity, the IT team now can perform firmware upgrades and configuration changes when needed, from a central location.    

Also, with a cloud-managed solution, if technology issues are reported from the field, the IT team at the fire department’s headquarters can locate the device via the cloud and assist with the problem — reducing costly troubleshooting time to almost zero.

A Large Ambulance Company

Being the largest emergency medical services provider in the state of Arkansas, this ambulance company needed always-on network at its branch locations. The company was previously trying to maintain services while running at speeds at or below 3 Mbps and paying hundreds of dollars per month for DSL. 

The company replaced its DSL service with 4G LTE for each of these remote locations. By implementing 4G LTE networking solutions, its speeds are now between 20 and 45 Mbps (i.e., ~10 times faster), and the annual Internet access costs have been reduced by more than 75 percent.

This agency also get more EMTs online at one time with 4G LTE. The initial DSL-based solution would only allow one or two EMTs per location online at any given time. With 4G LTE, up to 35 users can get online at each location at one time, making first responders and their IT team more efficient.