Treasury office gets expert help through IT lease

Treasury office gets expert help through IT lease


Steve Yohai thinks that sometimes the best way to manage something is to hand it over to an expert. That's why he assigned infrastructure services for four systems to a company across the Potomac River from his Washington office where leased servers keep business running smoothly, freeing staff to focus on his office's mission.

'Chief information officers are expected to quickly build very robust and reliable systems,' said Yohai, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's CIO. But there are options besides going through the hassle of a server procurement and the subsequent upgrades ownership entails.

'Instead of us buying servers that are scaleable enough to accommodate very aggressive growth in activity, we can rent a high-powered secure server,' he said.

OCC began leasing the servers and communication lines in August to address three major concerns: system security, infrastructure cost, and attraction and retention of technical personnel.

CIO Steve Yohai, left, R&D manager Paul Eaton and network services director Harriet Antiporowich back OCC move to lease servers.

His office hasn't faced those typical federal systems gremlins, but Yohai said he wants to be prepared, especially if the information technology labor shortage cramps OCC.

His associates support his decision.

'As we go forward, all agencies are going to have to look more to outsourcing as a response to the shortage of IT workers,' said Harriet Antiporowich, director of network services at OCC.

It pays to lease

Leasing has at least two advantages over ownership: OCC shares the costs and management of the network infrastructure with other organizations, and the agency gets top technical talent and state-of-the-art equipment without the headaches, said Yohai and Paul Eaton, manager of research and development.

OCC leases its servers and a T1 line from Entecom Inc. of Reston, Va. The servers are 733-MHz multiprocessor Compaq ProLiant DL380s with 512M of RAM, 9.1G hard drives and Microsoft Windows 2000.
Entecom servers host OCC's diagnostic, antivirus and Web applications and a phone number database. When those numbers change, the new information is automatically delivered to dial-in users.

The Entecom servers are at the company's Virginia facility. OCC personnel remain at the agency's headquarters in Washington and at its data center in Landover, Md., where other servers host business office applications.

'Our technical people may go there to facilitate the migration of a new system, but then they return to our offices,' Yohai said.
OCC is considering adding electronic customer support and office systems such as e-mail to the Entecom servers, he said.

Electronic support functions are particularly critical to OCC's 3,000 bank examiners, who often 'have to access the office from a single phone line in a hotel,' Eaton said. When they have problems with their notebook PCs, they must disconnect them to telephone the help desk.

Outsourcing gives OCC's own technical staff time to develop applications unique to the agency.
'It has really bothered me in the past when I have had to use my technical talent for generic technical work,' Yohai said.

Each month, OCC spends $2,135 for the servers and $825 for the T1 line. Those expenditures are offset by reduced network management costs, Eaton said.

OCC has full control of a server and a T1 line, so it can add applications without raising costs.
Under the lease agreement, the office has not committed to a certain infrastructure, so 'there is absolute agility in this environment,' Eaton said. 'We can change our minds without any impact. I find I can get out of trouble faster than I can get in it.'

Entecom backs up data daily and provides video surveillance and armed security at its site.
'It may sound silly, but it is very reassuring,' he said. 'Those simple applications are the best-protected assets in OCC.'

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