State IT diet: Consolidation, cloud and shared services

CIOs look for ways to improve services while cutting costs

State CIOs have their heads in the cloud these days.

Cloud computing, data center consolidation and virtualization are among the top policy and technology issues that state CIOs face in 2011, according to a survey conducted last fall by the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO).

The survey found CIOs were interested in the cloud as a service delivery strategy in addition to a means for sharing resources, services and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, interest in the cloud and shared services at the state level mirrors activity taking place at the federal level. Data center consolidation, the adoption of a cloud-first policy and shared services are all major parts of the Office of Management and Budget’s 25-point plan for IT reform.

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And like their federal counterparts, state agencies are turning to private clouds as a way to offer internal users and other state agencies infrastructure, platform and software services.

For example, New Mexico is looking to dramatically reduce IT expenses and electricity costs with the private cloud computing platform it launched near the end of last year.

The state’s Department of Information Technology will let agencies within the state move applications to virtual servers via an infrastructure-as-a-service cloud environment, dramatically reducing IT expenses and electricity costs because agencies will not need to buy their own IT hardware.

Municipalities are turning to cloud service providers, such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, to host e-mail and an array of services. Los Angeles became the poster child for cloud computing when it moved city agencies’ e-mail systems to Google’s cloud.

Last year, New York City struck a deal with Microsoft for a single, citywide license for the company’s software under which the city, operating in a cloud computing environment, will pay only for the applications that employees use.

According to the agreement, about 100,000 city employees will have access to Microsoft’s Web-based cloud computing services, which would give employees up-to-date tools, foster greater collaboration and save the city an estimated $50 million over five years, according to city officials.

Data center consolidation is helping some states, such as Utah, become a center of excellence, providing data center capabilities to cities and counties, Utah CIO Stephen Fletcher told GCN last summer. The cities and counties can pay for data center services out of their operational budgets, he said.

Utah has reduced 35 data centers to two: a primary and backup center. Utah has also reduced the number of servers it operates from 1,800 to 450, or 75 percent virtualized. The state is moving forward with the virtualization of the remaining servers, Fletcher said.

“We know how to provide hosting services and infrastructure because we are part of the state, and we offer this to our cities and counties,” Fletcher said. “For smaller cities, this was a wonderful idea because they didn’t have to invest upfront on this capital."

Michigan and Colorado are also following that path. Michigan has done that as one of the states working with their counties, Fletcher said. Colorado will provide a cloud capability for a number of services, including e-mail, and all its cities and counties can sign up for that. Three states are probably doing these things more than or as much as anybody: Michigan, Colorado and Utah, Fletcher said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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