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Network flexibility key to health emergency preparedness

Among the lessons that government health institutions learned from the COVID pandemic is the importance of sharing data in real-time to coordinate preparedness and response efforts. Central to that effort is the need for reliable, flexible, and high-capacity network environments, said government technology specialists in a recent FedScoop interview.

Farhan Khan, director of the Federal Drug Administration’s Office of Technology and Delivery, said health agencies must have three critically essential things in place to better prepare for public health emergencies. The first is ensuring their data centers and shared networks are assembled effectively and able to share data quickly and efficiently. The second is ensuring the networks are configured so that the applications agencies rely upon can talk to each other. And the third is ensuring that applications can send data from point A to point B as needed.

“The network is critically important because without a network, we cannot share data, we cannot pass data, and we cannot connect back to the network,” he said.

Agencies, however, are recognizing that to keep up with the growing demands on their networks from users, applications and devices, they also need to take advantage of new and more modern network capabilities like 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC), according to Lamont Copeland, managing director of federal solutions architecture at Verizon. MEC is a cloud-based solution that processes and stores data at the network’s edge — closer to devices and endpoints — for improved response times and performance,

For instance, Verizon’s 5G Ultra-Wideband network offers speeds of approximately 1 Gbps and latency of less than 30 milliseconds, which is 23 milliseconds faster than 4G cellular technology.

Additionally, working with Verizon partners like Ciena Government Solutions, agencies can build networks that operate in parallel to their existing networks — minimizing disruptions and reducing risk to end users — that are less complex to roll out and make service migration easier, according to Jim Westdorp, chief technologist at Ciena Government Solutions.

Verizon’s partnership with Ciena has enabled customers, including the U.S. Department of Defense, to deliver advanced services and increase network reliability and operating efficiency, providing a roadmap for faster digital, said Copeland. 

For federal health organizations, including the FDA, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health, which often share network resources, the convergence of cloud computing, AI, machine learning, and evolving work patterns has made the need for flexible network infrastructure even more critical, said Khan.

Learn more about how Ciena and Verizon are helping agencies to modernize.

This video interview was produced by Scoop News Group, for FedScoop and underwritten by Ciena Government Solutions and Verizon.