How one agency’s cloud migration smoothed the path for others
After Georgia’s Department of Revenue successfully moved operations from an on-prem data center to the cloud, other agencies are applying lessons from that migration to their own efforts.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When the system that Georgia’s Department of Revenue used to process tax returns and enforce state tax law was due for an upgrade, state officials knew it had to be done right and turned to the cloud.
DOR’s Integrated Tax Solution (ITS) had operated out of an on-prem data center, but agency officials decided in 2020 to transition it to Amazon Web Services’ commercial cloud, which they said would save them money, improve security and give them the flexibility to scale service up and down to meet demand.
And now, lessons learned from DOR’s migration are helping other agencies make the same transition to the cloud, thanks to state-level coordination help from the Georgia Technology Authority. GTA provides statewide enterprise technology leadership for all 89 state agencies, as well as managed network services for 1,200 state and local government entities.
Another helping hand in cloud migrations came from employees who have moved over from DOR to other departments.
"All of a sudden you've got people that have gone through a successful migration and seen what it looked like and have shown up at other agencies within the state,” Georgia Chief Technology Officer Dmitry Kagansky said during a panel discussion at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ annual conference. “Now they've got people sitting here saying, 'I've gone through all this, here's what we need to do next, here's when we contact GTA and the vendors.'"
DOR’s cloud migration was daunting. A fact sheet filed with NASCIO for its annual awards program said DOR had more than 5,000 tasks to complete during its migration, for a system that processed $23.7 billion in FY 2020 alone.
Ananias Williams III, DOR’s chief information officer, said during the panel discussion that officials at the agency decided on moving to the cloud based on various factors, including the cost of maintaining the existing infrastructure and projecting how they expected demand for ITS services to grow in the coming years. And with DOR being driven by its mission to serve customers effectively and efficiently, especially during tax season, the offerings from AWS’ commercial cloud services “elevated the cloud as an option.”
GTA helped staff DOR staff test code, set up new infrastructure and ensure the new cloud system would work with existing databases, as well as providing other support as needed.
State officials said there are plenty of benefits of a cloud-based system. In a statement when DOR was announced as a finalist for this year’s NASCIO State IT Recognition Awards, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said the state is “always eager to adopt new methods and products that lead to a more efficient government, providing better results for the people of our state at lower costs.”
Other Georgia agencies are set to follow DOR and the Department of Human Services, which also moved its services to the cloud. As others follow their lead, GTA also has a greater idea of its role in the process in supporting agencies’ transition.
"We actually used this project as a way to work out exactly what the partnership even looks like,” Kagansky said. “We came to the understanding with DOR that they were always going to be the experts on their application, and they knew how to work it inside and out. But GTA was able to step in and provide infrastructure support, common services, a lot of these additional technical skills that are needed."
The greatest benefit of this move to the cloud with state-level support is having GTA available to share its expertise and facilitate the migration, panelists said.
"For me, it's not just about the technology,” Georgia’s chief information officer Shawnzia Thomas said during the discussion. “Yes, we want a great solution, yes, we want a great tool, but it's about the support that's needed for the agencies that really provides this relationship building, making sure they know we're here for them and we're going to support them in whatever they need."