Dell Study Finds 'Alarming' Use of Outdated IT by Federal Agencies
More than 70 percent of IT decision-makers in the federal government say their agencies are running out-of-date technology, according to research from Dell. In a follow-up to its "State of IT Trends 2016" study, released in July, Dell also found that more than half of the federal agencies studied are using operating systems that are past their official end of life.
The Dell study echoed the findings of a similar report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released in May. That study found the U.S. Department of Defense is still using floppy disks for some of its systems, and that the U.S. Department of the Treasury still uses a computer language first developed in the 1950s.
Legacy IT use has "potentially damaging consequences" for the federal government, according to Dell's research. In addition to being costly to maintain, outdated systems leave government agencies more vulnerable to cyber threats.
61% Still Using Windows 7, 8
Conducted by the market research firm Penn Schoen Berland, the online survey for Dell questioned 100 IT and business decision-makers at federal agencies in the spring.
"Despite prioritizing upgrading their IT systems, 71 [percent] are currently using old operating systems to run important applications," the report noted. The dominant outdated operating systems were Windows 7 and Windows 8, used by a combined 61 percent of respondents.
Mainstream support for Windows 7 ended in January 2015, although extended support is available through 2020, according to Microsoft. Mainstream support for Windows 8 is scheduled to end in January 2018.
Decision-makers responding to the survey identified cybersecurity as their top concern stemming from the use of legacy IT, with 42 percent choosing that option. The other choices included cost of system support (19 percent), limitations on the ability to modernize (16 percent), concerns about operation system failure (12 percent) and compatibility problems with peripheral devices and accessories (11 percent).
Aging Hardware Includes Desktops, Servers, Routers
The Dell survey also found that the oldest pieces of hardware used at federal agencies included desktops (72 percent), servers (70 percent) and network routers (67 percent).
"The alarming percentage of critical applications running on legacy IT systems, as revealed by our survey, aligns with many of the concerns currently being voiced by government leaders and agency customers alike," Steve Harris, vice president and general manager of Dell Federal, said in a statement.
The first step for many organizations is making the commitment to virtualized, software-based environments. "Agencies need this future-ready IT environment to unlock the power of innovation, support digital transformation, protect mission-critical data and reduce maintenance costs," he said.
In its May report, the GAO recommended that the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) draft guidance to identify and prioritize legacy IT that needed to be modernized or replaced. While the OMB had recently begun a modernization initiative, "until this policy is finalized and fully executed, the government runs the risk of maintaining systems that have outlived their effectiveness," according to the report.
The GAO also pointed out that even though spending on operations and maintenance activities has grown over the past seven years, funding for development, modernization and enhancement has declined by $7.3 billion.
Image credit: Department of Homeland Security.
Posted: 2016-09-06 @ 5:52am PT
Windows 7? I wish! We are waiting to "upgrade" to Windows 7, it should come this year! Oh yey! Seems our wonderful programmers, contract and government, can't make our programs work using the new systems since they haven't kept up with the new technology. The IT decision makers don't know what technology is (they're all old typewriter dudes with no clue!) and there's no funding to develop new systems - or rather instead of spending the limited funds on actual programs we need to support our mission they waste funds on creating Facebook pages, Twittering and all the BS social media.
Posted: 2016-08-30 @ 9:06am PT
There is a primary reason why aging systems are running today: They are work horses that rarely goes down. The question to ask is not if virtualization is the first step but how do we keep running our business, non-stop, day-in-day-out, to serve our customers while we modernize silently? No one is asking the end-customer (veterans, service members, students, dependents) if they are willing to accept some bumps in the road while we do this. This lack of communication to our customers, in my opinion, is at the very heart of the issue.
Back when all of this legacy hardware came online; no one had a crystal ball to gauge obsolescence! No one has a crystal ball today to see trends 40 years from now so this issue will repeat in the future! All I know is that the old legacy systems works! It processes thousands upon thousands of records, awards, letters and data that cannot be halted one second but it will have to one day be halted if change is to take place. We cannot make these changes in the dark.
In closing, our first step needs to be informing our customers where we stand, where we want to go and knowing if they are with us while we get there. We need to open lines of communication to our customers and keep them informed of pending changes and have a back-up plan when the inevitable outages takes place while we are modernizing.