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County’s cloud boosts capacity planning, flattens spending variations

When Kern County, Calif., CIO Mac Avancena found that storage costs across departments were rapidly increasing, he realized he had a problem.

“That’s not a sustainable model when you’re continually scaling out 40% year-over-year,” Avancena said. “From a leadership point of view, we have to recognize that we were not using the tools and the capabilities that we had to do a better job at capacity planning.”

To “pause the bleed of growth” at the county’s 40-plus departments, each of which had its own original equipment manufacturer agreement, Avancena wanted establish a central IT platform managed by the CIO office that would serve as a service provider and broker of IT resources for the departments.

“The key there is being able to corral all of your IT into a common infrastructure so you could be better prepared to support that ecosystem,” Avancena said.

He turned to Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with which the county already contracted for storage, and in February the Kern County implemented HPE’s GreenLake Cloud Services, an on-premises, fully managed, pay-per-use IT-as-a-service solution. It combines HPE hardware -- storage, networking and compute -- with software and third-party software in a virtual desktop scenario. HPE Pointnext Services handles the management installation on the back end, while HPE Financial Services deals with cost structuring.

Additionally, with GreenLake Central, a software platform that lets customers run, manage and optimize their hybrid IT, the county now has real-time visibility into usage data and can access cloud services, set budgets, create reports and build rules-based policies.

“Out of the gate, we increased our overall capacity with GreenLake by 63% and that was our high-water mark,” Avancena said.

“As we start creeping up toward that upper ceiling, then we have a cost-protected rate card that we’re able to share and distribute with our business partners so that there’s a flat-rate pricing for storage and compute on demand,” he said. “It really helps me as a technology leader to say, ‘Hey, if the business is going to scale and grow by an order of X, then guess what? Your infrastructure – the utilities that support your growth – is also going to grow at scale by that same order and here’s the rate.’ That’s huge.”

Additionally, elasticity of the private cloud solution gives him the ability to access next-generation technologies without worrying about capital investments.

In the past eight months, the county has realized a predictable growth rate and spend structure by flattening the variation in its technology spending. That allowed Avancena to shift his focus from buying, maintaining, engineering and supporting hardware to solving more complex problems.

“I have more time getting in front of the business talking about how can we provide better digital experiences for our constituents. That’s really the big get here,” he said, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, when reliance on county services is especially high.

The county has also used GreenLake to increase its virtual desktop infrastructure capability to meet remote-work demands. Rather than going through the traditional procurement process, the county was able to take advantage of GreenLake’s scalability to add capacity without disrupting service.

Kern County’s challenges are not unique, said Keith White, general manager of GreenLake Cloud Services, especially as many governments face pandemic-related budget shortfalls. Many organizations are moving toward the public cloud, but 70% of apps and data can’t move there for various reasons, such as regulations or data gravity issues, he said.

“That’s not just the old applications,” White said. “That’s also the new workloads, based on wanting control or data latency. The world is multicloud and the world is hybrid -- public and private together.”

In Kern County, California’s third-largest county, GreenLake now supports more than 75% of the county’s departments, and the goal is to reach 100%.

“This positions Kern County better in terms of how we’re able to leverage our shared technology investment and how we’re going to be able to maximize returns on those investments,” Avancena said.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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