Federal Government

Department Spotlight: Energy


For our first department spotlight feature of 2016, we turn our attention to the Department of Energy (DOE). A major focus point of this year’s State of the Union was research and development in regards to energy. These goals, along with cyber threats facing critical infrastructure, put emphasis on continued innovation from the private sector to meet the Department of Energy’s needs and expectations

The mission of the DOE is to “ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” The department has regulatory responsibility, works to boost national security, and has an incredibly robust research network. Even more, the agency maintains an informative blog at energy.gov that highlights successes and challenges within the energy community.

The Complex IT Infrastructure of the DOE

The Department of Energy’s 17 National Laboratories house some of the most powerful technologies in the world, researching everything from climate change, new energy sources, energy efficiency, innovative technologies, and more. The amount of bandwidth required to power all this research and the storage framework needed to house the resulting data grows exponentially every year. To support these labs, the department is in constant need of agile infrastructure, as well as analytic support.

Complicating the constant need for advanced IT infrastructure is the fact that many research projects are funded through grants, which require the purchase of additional and very specific technologies. DOE has been focused on standardizing their IT with this reality in mind. In one case, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory built a new data center to counter its data efficiency problems. By implementing data standards, today’s ORNL data technology must meet certain requirements before new IT purchase to ensure proper maintenance and efficiency. If the proposed solution does not meet the new standards, the group using the technology must pay a fee for it to be included and maintained in the center.

Building on to DoE’s IT Network with ESNet

Differing from the experiences of Oak Ridge in infrastructure issues, is the Energy Sciences Network, or ESNet, one of the most sophisticated networks in the world. ESNet is a high performance network that links 40 DOE sites across the country; the network can carry up to 100 petabytes of data per month! ESNet was created to handle large international collaborations on physics, climate, genomics, and other research that requires the management and transfer of massive quantities of data. Due to continued scientific development and better IT infrastructure, traffic on ESNet has been able to grow in size an average of 10 times every 4 years. With this heavy duty network able to handle the big data load of the department, individual sites are looking to make their local networks more lightweight. Various labs have embraced a hyper-converged Virtual Desktop Infrastructure using VMware’s virtual desktop platform in order to keep their systems light and adaptable.

The Department of Energy is a highly technical and complex organization which requires advanced IT support for collaboration, research, and demands cutting-edge cybersecurity protocols. Let us know what other innovations you see coming from DOE in the comments!

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