Pandemics and Government Continuity of Operations

Jan 6, 2010

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Posted by David Hunter

Chief Technology Officer, WWW Public Sector

I’d
like to take a few minutes to talk about the effects of pandemics on
the continuity of government operations and how virtualization can
assist in preparing for a pandemic while also helping to stem the
spread.    Epidemics and pandemics refer to the spread of infectious diseases among a population.  The
World Health Organization (WHO) has defined phases of a pandemic to
help provide a global, common framework for pandemic preparedness and
response planning.   The phases are shown below with the key characteristic of each phase.   As you can see, phase 4 indicates a tipping point for the risk of a pandemic.   But
it isn’t until phase 5 that that the WHO considers declaring a pandemic
– giving the contagion a good deal of time to incubate and spread.

Phases

If an influenza pandemic were to occur today, we could expect the virus to spread rapidly due to the globalized nature of the world.    During
a pandemic within in the United States, the population will naturally
rely on Federal, State and local governmental assistance and leadership.  This may range from an

increase in transportation services, deployment of additional emergency
service resources to additional health and human services to combat and
control the spread and impact of the pandemic.

 

While I seem to have painted a dark and gloomy picture reminiscent of the movie Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, all hope is not lost.   Governmental agencies are working to lessen the impact by implementing continuity plans that emphasize Social Distancing.   The
objective of this model is to slow the pandemic’s spread by reducing
physical interactions while maintaining operations as close to normal
as possible. This translates in a large part to supporting remote
operations with access to resources normally associated with being in
the office    Federal, State and Local
governments organizations have been investigating what additional
technologies and services would be required to implement such a program.   One such enabler identified is Desktop Virtualization.  Providing
remote access to an individual's work desktop environment with an
acceptable level of user experience is essential.  Some benefits from
adopting desktop virtualization include:

  • A familiar user interface
    – employees don’t have to retrain in order to be able to work from home
    on short notice – perhaps the only thing they need to do is a quarterly
    or semi-annual test run, and to keep a guide on how to login remotely.
  • Centralized management
    – Because you can manage desktops remotely from a central ‘command and
    control’ center of operations, you can minimize the number of staff
    required to report to the office.
  • Security
    – Since the data and applications physically ‘live’ in the data center
    and not on hundreds or thousands of movable parts, the number of threat
    vectors is reduced as well.  Features such as
    VMware’s Linked Clone technology further reduce the risk by allowing
    the sharing of operating systems reducing the number of patches and
    updates required.

By
employing VMware’s View Desktop Virtualization solution in their Social
Distancing Program, governmental agencies can mitigate the risks
associated with a pandemic, while maintaining continuity of operations.  View is based on VMware’s 4thgeneration
vSphere virtualization platform, which is in production use in over
150,000 organizations throughout the world, including all 15
presidential level agencies.  VMware has shipped
over 1 million desktop virtualization seats to over 7000 customers and
with a full complement of Platform, Management and User experience
technologies, no other virtualization solution is as pervasively used
as VMware.  Implementing a Desktop Virtualization solution for pandemic preparedness is a lot closer at hand than you think. 

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