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How to overcome your legacy IT and not drown in data


Moving to data driven decision making in the UK public sector

Industry voice: Legacy IT doesn’t have to hold your organisation back from true digital transformation. By focusing on the real time machine data it produces you can strengthen security, improve operational troubleshooting and open the door for advanced analytics according to Gordon Morrison, director, government affairs at Splunk. 

When we look at the UK public sector today there are some clear technology trends that stand out. Firstly, organisations are being asked to drive transformation through the greater and more effective use of technology. Secondly, this process has driven the exponential growth of data across all areas from security through to operations, with the addition of data from emerging areas like the Internet of Things contributing to the complexity.

All too often these two trends rest upon what is often referred to as ‘legacy’ technology, technology that has formed the backbone of public sector IT for years but was not designed to cope with modern demands. Organisations across local and central government, police, fire and health remain heavily dependent on legacy systems, where data is scattered across the IT estate and is difficult to pull together.

Yet none of these trends are fading away. Digital transformation will continue to gain pace and data volumes will grow ever larger. Legacy technology is also not going away anytime soon. It will continue to be at the heart of the public sector as it often forms the core of systems that are difficult and expensive to move like ERP or payroll. In a time of continuing austerity and relative economic uncertainty it is simply not feasible to consider modernising all legacy technology in one go.

So what should your typical local council or health department do about legacy technology, caught as they are between pressure to transform and pressure to keep costs down?

Riding the wave of data

The answer ultimately lies in the data they are already producing, in particular in the machine data generated by the IT estate, including the legacy technology itself. Machine-generated data is one of the fastest growing and complex areas of big data. All websites, communications, networking and complex IT infrastructures generate massive streams of machine data every second of every day, in an array of unpredictable formats that are difficult to process and analyse by traditional methods or in a timely manner. 

Legacy technology produces a large volume of machine data that is often not utilised and simply becomes data exhaust. Yet machine data, including that generated by legacy technology, can help organisations to troubleshoot persistent problems and to investigate data anomalies that could indicate a security risk. By gaining real visibility over the machine data generated by their technologies, organisations are more able to pursue transformation with an accurate, real-time view into what’s occurring in their supporting infrastructure.

Organisations can make their machine data accessible, usable and valuable by utilising the Splunk platform. This acts as a technology layer that sits above and beyond legacy and operational systems. It can harness and integrate these disparate messy data streams to not only closely monitor cyber security and IT operations but also provide a platform for advanced data science across the organisation.

Many public sector organisations are already getting value from their machine data by utilising the Splunk platform. NHS Choices, the UK’s largest healthcare website, needs to deliver the best possible service to the 48 million visitors it receives every month, and utilises Splunk Enterprise to provide insight into the vast volume of log data produced by its website infrastructure. This allows the technology team to quickly identify and address problems, effectively manage website traffic and enhance reporting within the organisation.

The Ministry of Defence is another organisation reaping the benefits of being able to view the real time machine data generated by key parts of its infrastructure. At Splunk’s user conference in 2017 Air Cdre Chris Moore, ISS director service operations at the organisation highlighted this, saying that: “The Splunk platform provides the Ministry of Defence with access to real-time protective and network performance monitoring as part of our ‘Enterprise Security & Service Management’ programme. We are more able to centrally monitor performance of our fixed and mobile networks. In the months since rolling out Splunk, we have identified potential broader use cases where UK Military could benefit from advanced data analytics in the future.”

The trends of growing demand for digital transformation and an ever rising tide of data will continue to challenge the UK public sector for the foreseeable future. So, let’s recognise the value of our machine data in UK Government and its ability to not only transform services but overcome technology legacy. Most of the machine data generated in Government is ignored, let’s use it to drive better, more secure services for our citizens.

You can find out more about how Splunk’s customers are utilising their machine data by downloading Splunk's latest customer focused e-book here: Data Secrets Revealed – A Collection of EMEA Customer Stories


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