Pica8’s Guide to Modernizing State & Local Government Networks

Build a reliable, high-performance network at a cost taxpayers will appreciate

The Government Predicament

Increased demand, aging networks, limited budget.

AmpCon™ Automation

World’s first automation framework for centrally managed white box switch-based open access networks.

Automate for $10/Switch

Special intro pricing for AmpCon saves hundreds of thousands of precious taxpayer dollars.

Addressing Your Pain Points

The drive to digitize. Tight budgets. Limited IT staff. Many locations. Overly complex and expensive legacy networks. We feel your pain and know how to relieve it.

Your Cisco Exit Strategy

Automated install and config, simplified management, fully backwards-compatible.

Open Switch Benefits

Conserve taxpayer dollars, gain freedom of choice.

Future-Proof & AI-Ready™

Industry’s only integrated SDN security control plane on an AI-Ready architecture.

Case Study: City of Hoover, Alabama

Improved performance, simplified management, 35% to 40% cost savings.

The Government Predicament: Aging Networks, Increased Demand, Limited Budget

State and local government agencies face a dilemma. Employees and constituents increasingly expect services to be delivered online, but aging networks aren’t equipped to handle increasing workloads. Agencies know it’s time for an upgrade, but the price points legacy vendors are quoting aren’t in sync with the lean budgets typical of public entities.

Government agencies and departments have dozens if not hundreds of switches that need upgrading, many of them at smaller offices and buildings spread across large geographic areas, such as an entire state or county. Lean IT budgets and equally lean IT staff are also hallmarks of government agencies. (Staffing challenges are not unique to government, however – experienced network technicians are scarce anywhere in the world, and, thus, expensive.)

The Open Network Alternative to Legacy Vendor Lockdown

Open networking presents a compelling, low-risk alternative on the cost front. At a fraction of the cost, open white box switches offer the same performance and capabilities as switches from the likes of Cisco and Juniper – because they use the same underlying hardware. In that respect, open networking is a natural fit for government agencies that must be prudent with how they spend taxpayer dollars.

Until now, tools to easily configure, deploy and maintain open switch networks simply didn’t exist outside of large data centers. Since government agencies operate with lean technical staff, they have had no choice but to return to their legacy networking vendors for automation solutions. Given a total lack of competition, these vendors repaid that loyalty by building early obsolescence into their hardware, forcing government users into perpetual upgrade cycles at ever-increasing price points.

That was then. This is now.

AmpCon™ – White Box Automation Comes to Open Access Networks

It all changes with AmpCon automation framework from Pica8

Pica8’s AmpCon™, short for Amplified Control, is an automated, scalable, market-proven open networking automation framework for centrally managed access and campus networks – like those at government agencies.

With its Push-Button Deployment capability, AmpCon radically simplifies installation and configuration of large numbers of remote switches running the Pica8 PICOS® network operating system. Even non-technical employees can use AmpCon’s Quick-Start Mode to deploy hundreds or thousands of switches at once using simple GUI-based English commands. The operational expense (OpEx) savings of this feature alone makes AmpCon a natural fit for government IT groups because it solves a big part of the staffing problem – now there’s no need to send network technicians to each site to install and configure switches.

Let us know how we can help you give your constituents the latest and greatest next-generation data network possible

How To Buy

Support You Know and Trust Around the Globe

With the business of government dependent on a robust, reliable data network, you need to ensure you’ve got stellar support from your network vendors.

Pica8 has long-standing global support contracts with our open switch hardware partners, including Dell EMC. Many government entities already have support agreements with companies like Dell EMC for laptops, servers, VoIP phones and the like. Pica8 adds networking solutions to the mix.

We cover all networking software with concierge-like support available 24×7, while hardware issues are handed off seamlessly to our partners – Dell EMC and others – also with 24×7 coverage.

Automation at a Taxpayer-Friendly Price:

Just $10/Switch – Do We Have Your Attention Yet?

As an example, a Cisco DNA Center automation package for a 100-switch access network would come with a list price starting around $200,000. AmpCon, with comparable automation capabilities, has an introductory price of a mere $10 per switch, per year – or roughly 1/200th the cost of Cisco. And remember, those savings are on top of the already-impressive capital expense (CapEx) savings of, typically, 50% for open switch hardware as compared to legacy switches.

Compare
$10
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switch
$100K
for DNA
Center server
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$1K
DNA License
per switch

Government Networks: Upgrade Drivers

Technology is fundamental to all businesses and government agencies are no exception.

Internal employees and constituents alike are quite used to the convenience they get from various online applications and services, and expect government agencies to deliver the same.

It’s also a budget and public interest imperative. If agencies can digitize their operations to streamline services, gain productivity and save taxpayer dollars, they have an obligation to do so. But one of the costs of such convenience is often added pressure on remote access network switches, which have to do the heavy lifting of dealing with the onslaught of data from all directions.

The amount of data at the edges of government networks is organically increasing, fueled by the increasing use of mobile devices, Internet of Things (IoT) data flows, and increased use of bandwidth-intensive applications like streaming video and voice-over-IP.

People today also expect Wi-Fi to be available wherever they may be – certainly in government buildings. Employees, too, may have two or three mobile devices they use daily. So, robust Wi-Fi is merely table stakes.

IoT is proving to be a game-changer for various industries and here again, government is no exception, with applications including:

  • Sensors and cameras to aid law enforcement agencies in ensuring public safety
  • Maintenance and monitoring of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water and gas lines, railways and airports
  • Smart streetlights, traffic signals, intersection monitoring and other “smart city” applications
  • Smart building systems to monitor for humidity, temperature and the like, and to control HVAC and lighting systems

All of these applications, while important, contribute to the ever-increasing load of network traffic in government networks, potentially overwhelming existing switch infrastructure.

What’s more, when these networks were first designed, the three-tier network model made perfect sense: access switches in offices feeding aggregation switches in wiring closets or server rooms. Then the aggregation switches ship traffic up to core switches in the network backbone.

But today, the three-tier design is like an albatross around IT’s neck in the government sector, with the explosion of traffic at the access edge forcing the need for more bandwidth and more switches that are a nightmare to deploy and manage.

Finally, an End-to-End Open Network Replacement for Legacy Campus Networks

Pica8 presents a solution based on PICOS, the first open Linux NOS designed to run on open, white box switches, supported by innovative applications that bring both simplicity and automation to access and campus networks. That includes the first-ever open networking replacement solution for wiring closet switch stacks, intermediate distribution frames (IDFs), and large, Cisco 6509-class campus chassis switches.

The new AmpCon automation framework makes PICOS-based white box and brite box switch installation and configuration a breeze. Its Web-based interface is both simple to learn and use, enabling centralized, automated turn-on and configuration for all PICOS switches throughout the network – no need to deploy scarce and precious IT resources to install switches at remote locations anymore.

AmpCon also provides switch inventory and lifecycle license management for installed PICOS switches in networks of any size. Being an open platform, it also comes with libraries of playbooks for network automation routines that will be at your disposal. Click here for all the details on AmpCon.

Once your PICOS switches are installed, another Pica8 innovation, PicaPilotPro™, makes all your critical port-aggregation switches far easier to manage over the long term – including the open white box switch hardware that is replacing old switch stacks, IDFs and campus chassis aggregation switches. PicaPilotPro is an integrated component of Pica8’s PICOS Enterprise Edition software. It allows administrators to manage dozens of switches -as one single, logical switch, with a single IP address. In short, PicaPilotPro helps bring operational order to the proliferation of access and campus switches in government networks.

Now you can install a security patch or configuration upgrade on dozens of switches with a single command via PicaPilotPro’s web-based command interface, for example. Imagine how much more productive such capabilities will make your IT team.

In essence, PicaPilotPro helps create a simpler, two-tier leaf-spine network architecture that improves performance while also easing management. Long used in data center networks, the leaf-spine architecture has only a single logical hop between any two network nodes – delivering a dramatic increase in performance. PicaPilotPro also eliminates the current requirement for running Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) in legacy switch stacks for fail-over. Removing STP creates both a more reliable network and also recovers the large amount of switch bandwidth that must be set aside for STP.

All Pica8 solutions are fully backwards-compatible with your legacy network equipment, able to integrate with switches from Arista, Cisco, HPE, Juniper, and so on. That means government agencies aren’t forced into wholesale upgrades all at once. Upgrade gradually, one department at a time, building by building, or at whatever speed IT budgets allow.

Save Taxpayer Dollars, Gain Freedom of Choice

All this comes on open, white- and brite-box switches from trusted brands like Dell EMC, which use the exact same manufacturers that supply hardware to legacy networking vendors. So, you get the same underlying switches, just at far less cost.

The disaggregated nature of open networks also means you can pick and choose the software you want to run on the switches. Pica8’s PICOS is purpose-built to handle the complexity of campus and access networks. If you want to run a different NOS on your data center switches, which have far different requirements, go right ahead. It’s totally your choice.

Cost is the icing on the cake because with open switches, you’ll pay a small fraction of the price as compared to legacy vendors. Often the savings are large enough to replace a single legacy switch with two high-performance open switches, adding an additional “9” of reliability. The same goes for software. Cisco certainly isn’t going to sell you a full automation suite for $10 per switch per year.

Future-Proofed and AI-Ready™

PICOS also includes features that will have you well-positioned for the future, so you don’t have to be concerned about whether your infrastructure will still stand up five or 10 years down the road. Those features include:

Software-defined Networking (SDN)

In another industry first, Pica8 offers CrossFlow™ technology, which enables SDN/OpenFlow traffic to travel over the same switch ports as production Layer 2/Layer 3 traffic. The ability to combine SDN and L2/L3 traffic gives rise to Open Intent-based Networking (OIBN), making possible new levels of network service flexibility.

With CrossFlow, Pica8-powered switches offer a separate security control plane, which means it’s now possible to deliver security services over the same ports as operational data traffic without disrupting network traffic or touching any switch access control lists (ACLs). If your IDS/IPS detects an intrusion on a certain port, for example, you can send a policy change to redirect traffic from that port to another, or reject it altogether – all without disrupting production traffic. Pica8 is also the only open source access network solution to offer support for multiple SDN controllers, giving government agencies the ability to conduct R&D projects and learn how best to apply SDN and OIBN.

A World of Open Source Tools

Pica8’s open networking approach means government users will be able to take advantage of a vibrant ecosystem of free open source tools. Try Zabbix, for example, to help with network monitoring, and check out Ansible, AWX, and Ansible Tower and their vast libraries of pre-built automation scripts for all sorts of tasks. The possibilities are endless. To lower the learning curve even more, Pica8 offers playbooks, configuration guides, and other materials for many of these tools, all free of charge.

AI-Ready™

As an open, extendable platform, AmpCon is ready to take advantage of telemetry and other technologies as they emerge. Artificial intelligence, for example, may soon bring new levels of analytics and automation to government networks. PICOS is architected to ingest this data and manage the network from a single, centralized point.

Case Study: City of Hoover, Alabama

Inspired by the success of Google and others with open networking, when it was time to replace its aging, overly complex network the City of Hoover, Alabama opted for a network based on Pica8’s PICOS and open, white box hardware.

Fast facts about Hoover, AL

  • Population: 85,000
  • Largest suburb of Birmingham
  • White box network extends to nine buildings, including City Hall, police and fire stations, senior and recreation centers, a library and data center

Project background

  • In 2015, the city was looking to reduce its maintenance costs while positioning itself to support forthcoming technologies such as software-defined networks (SDNs)
  • Existing network was predominantly Cisco
  • Cisco licenses covered networking functions the city didn’t need, making it both expensive and overly complex to administer

Pica8 Solution

Pica8 PICOS network operating system running on some 50 open Edgecore white box switches implemented in nine city buildings, including two data centers. Two 10G-to-20G connections to each wiring closet, for up to 40G total capacity to each closet – eliminating bottlenecks faced with previous 1G connections.

Benefits

  • Increased performance: sub-millisecond response times throughout network
  • Simplified management and configuration: flatter leaf-spine architecture
  • 35% to 40% cost savings vs. proprietary solution
  • Fully backward-compatible with remaining legacy networking infrastructure
  • Future-proof: PICOS CrossFlow supports Layer 2, Layer 3 and SDN traffic over the same switch ports at the same time – paving the way for new levels of security and policy management

We wanted to bring in the best equipment and software we could yet be cost-efficient as this is all being paid for by taxpayer dollars. The combination of the Pica8 PICOS® NOS and Edgecore hardware enabled us to achieve that goal. It gives us a real future-proofed network – something legacy networking vendors seem to shy away from.”

Jason Cope, Director of Technology for the City of Hoover

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