Organizing IT infrastructure and applications

Ohio undoing decades of IT sprawl with shared infrastructure

Ohio is taking a “backward consolidation” approach to undo years of IT sprawl. At the same time, state officials have laid out a vision to adopt a more forward-looking consolidation strategy that will prevent future sprawl.

Ohio is modernizing the State of Ohio Computing Center (SOCC) through the development of a private cloud computing infrastructure and the use of IBM hardware, software and services. The private cloud will serve as the foundation of Ohio’s IT Optimization effort, a four-part IT strategy to reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve agency business processes by consolidating all of the state’s IT assets into a primary data center.

The state is working with IBM “to significantly reduce the complexity of our infrastructure, improve data center operations and increase service delivery for state agencies and the constituents they serve,” Ohio CIO Stu Davis said in a release.

Decades of decentralized IT management and spending have created imbalanced IT assets and service offerings in the state. Moreover, state agencies have been heavily invested in maintaining and supporting their own agency infrastructures. Each year the state is investing more and more resources to support “highly distributed, non-standards-based infrastructures with fewer resources directed toward programs to support the agencies’ business missions and the citizens they serve,” according to Ohio’s IT Transformation Plan,  released in January. Ohio’s Executive Branch annual IT-related spending continues to increase, with total IT related spending for fiscal 2012 exceeding $830 million, the plan states.

The SOCC, a four-floor facility with more than 350,000 square feet of space in the state capital of Columbus, is really multiple data centers within one, housing the infrastructures of about 20 agencies, each with its own data center, Kevin Hill, IBM client executive for Ohio, told GCN. The infrastructure houses 1,600 applications — 20 percent are more than 10 years old and 54 percent are more than 5 years old — on over 2,700 servers.

As part of a $267 million, 10-year contract, IBM will reconstruct the SOCC, adding additional power and cooling capabilities. IBM will also consolidate the multiple agency data centers within the SOCC onto a cloud-based infrastructure, Hill said. Eventually, the state plans to bring other agencies that are not presently in the SOCC into the private cloud, he noted. Additionally, IBM will implement operating model improvements to deploy Information Technology Infrastructure Library-based service management capabilities.

“The most common approach to transformation is IT infrastructure consolidation and standardization followed by applications,” the IT plan states. “This is largely because of the complexity in trying to identify the normal business processes required to consolidate applications.” It also eliminates one potential source of performance and availability problems for the consolidated applications.

After the infrastructure has been consolidated, Ohio officials will focus on moving enterprise applications such as e-mail, voice over IP and instant messaging to a centrally managed organization. But the true optimization of these applications will come from their dependencies on network, server and storage infrastructure consolidations.

Agency-specific business applications, those used solely within a department or agency, will remain the responsibility of the agency, but the IT infrastructure on which these applications reside will be provided by the enterprise IT organization, Ohio officials said. Leveraging shared services of commodity applications, such as e-mail, across organizations will allow agencies to redirect management attention and resources towards agency specific activities, Ohio officials said.

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