Jul 03 2007

Ahead of the Storage Curve

Leading state investors are fully embracing storage technologies and delivering innovative services.

New York’s Digital Towpath Cooperative bridges the gap where there is a need for full-time services in towns where government officials typically work part time, says Jeanne Brown, the Project Director.

Government on all levels collects vast amounts of information about people, property and programs. Storing this information and providing easy access, as well as ensuring that it will survive a disaster, are crucial functions of modern states, counties and cities.

State and local governments are investing in storage technology necessary to contain, retrieve and back up growing terabytes of data at widely differing rates. Virginia and New York are the states clearly leading the way.

To identify state and local governments in the vanguard and characteristics they have in common, the latest CDW•G State & Local Government Technology Investment Curve survey took a close look at states’ storage technology initiatives and buying trends. This report, the third in the TIC series, relates CDW•G sales and customer data gathered from 2003 through 2006.

Working in conjunction with the Center for Digital Government, CDW•G defined the universe of possible customers at state, county and municipal levels for every state and assessed purchasing behavior irrespective of specific vendors or products.

The investment index is based on survey data, along with a state-by-state analysis of the results, and reflects investment at all levels of government. The research covered six specific areas of storage technology: backup software, storage software, storage area networks, tape backup, network-attached storage and drive arrays.

The study provides data to help government information technology managers compare approaches and programs from state to state. The index attempts to measure investment in storage technologies at all levels of government in the individual states but is not a ranking of IT programs.

Survey results show Virginia and New York far outpacing other states in storage investments across all categories, earning them the designation of lead investors. Virginia’s overall investment profile placed it at 625 percent above the average of all states and at the top of every category of storage technology. New York tagged close behind in each category and had an overall investment index of 621 percent above average.

With an overall profile of 126 percent above the average, Wisconsin is dubbed an early investor and has made particularly strong investments in storage software in general, backup software and tape backup products, according to the study.

The lead and early investor states share some common characteristics. Virginia, New York and Wisconsin demonstrate a continuing commitment to the development and expansion of e-government programs that provide information and services to citizens online. Their priorities include eliminating paper-driven processes, boosting productivity and facilitating information sharing across agencies.

“Storage will be key to rationalizing and modernizing our infrastructure,” says Virginia’s Fred Duball.


Building on Success

Investment in storage technologies is just part of a comprehensive and continuing effort to revamp Virginia’s information infrastructure, says Fred Duball, director of the commonwealth’s Service Management Organization. In 2003, the Legislature created the Virginia IT Agency, with a mandate to optimize the state’s systems operations to better serve residents and visitors, he says.

VITA has forged a groundbreaking $2 billion public- private partnership with Northrop Grumman to rebuild Virginia’s IT infrastructure. The company has almost completed a $35 million data center for the state in Chesterfield County that will store and provide access to information from 90 agencies. VITA also has a $23 million center under construction in Lebanon to provide backup and disaster recovery for the Chesterfield center.

26 TB

The growth in the Fairfax County, Va., SAN’s capacity between 2002 and 2006.

“Storage will be key to rationalizing and modernizing our infrastructure, which will lead to better service,” Duball says. “With the second data center, information will either be backed up in real time or at other appropriate intervals, depending on the application, and both data and access to service will be protected.”

The state also intends to share infrastructure services with Virginia municipal and county governments, he says. “If a county wanted a backup data center but couldn’t make the investment, we can offer space,” Duball says. “In that way all levels of government can capitalize on our investment.”

Fairfax County is already a leader in adopting storage technology. The 8-terabyte storage area network the county implemented in 2002 has grown to 34TB, in part, to handle the 625,000 visits monthly to its Web site. The SAN also facilitates exchange of information among agencies and shortens backup windows, according to the survey.

Although it’s redoing its infrastructure, Virginia has a history of technology leadership. It was the first state in the nation to launch an e-gov platform that gave local governments access to state databases, an initiative that cuts paper-and-ink costs by an estimated $1.8 million a year, according to the CDW•G study.


The number of people receiving online services through New York’s Digital Towpath Cooperative.

Source: New York Digital Towpath Cooperative

New York

Cooperation and Crisis Management

In New York, storage technologies support an array of projects, with functions that range from enabling online services for small municipalities to making sure New York City maintains communications for emergency responders and citizens during crises.

The Digital Towpath Cooperative (DTC) provides Internet software and server space so that more than 65 small New York communities and organizations, such as the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, can offer online services.

“Back in 1998, a group of us involved in municipal government from eight towns in Oneida County saw that the Internet would be a great way to provide public services, but none of us could do it alone,” says DTC Project Director Jeanne Brown.

The cooperative bridges a gap created by the need for full-time services in towns where government officials typically work part time, Brown says. The cooperative’s members use Digital Towpath software to create Web pages and store data for their sites on DTC servers. The cooperative performs backup services and has created a redundant system, mirroring all information at a second data center.

One of the newest DTC offerings is an archive for long-term maintenance of electronic records. Digital Towpath currently estimates it has storage space for the live information and archives of 200 towns or organizations, so there is room for growth. “When we get more users or the towns start to push the space limits, we’ll just look for more grant money to buy more hardware and software,” Brown adds.

On the other end of the scale, New York City’s Office of Emergency Management opened new headquarters in Brooklyn in December. The OEM center gathers information about emerging situations from sources as diverse as police officers and firefighters on the streets and the federal National Weather Service. It stores the data in a variety of formats and ensures that they will be available in almost any situation.

Disaster recovery best practices are crucial, says Andrew Troisi, spokesman for the Office of Emergency Management. “The OEM performs a daily backup of all data systems and stores backup tapes offsite.”

$1.2 Billion - $25 Million

What Wisconsin spends respectively each year to gather electronic data and store electronic records.

Source: Wisconsin Information Resource Center


Customer Service

Investing in storage and backup technology is all about maintaining public trust and providing customer service, says Wisconsin CIO Oskar Anderson.

“We’re entrusted with a lot of information, and it’s our job to make it safe and available,” says Anderson. “Resilience is really important to us.” Resilience hinges on the state’s investment in a redundant storage architecture that lets the CIO organization mirror all data at two main data centers, says Anderson.

“We can switch to the other data center quickly, and that means that we can provide uninterrupted service to people who need the information and the applications we provide,” he says.

The need to store digital information is increasing at all levels of Wisconsin government; approximately 70 local government Web sites provide one or more online applications through which residents and visitors can retrieve information. Madison, the capital and the center of the state’s university system, leads the way, having been designated a “digital city” by the Center for Digital Government for its innovative use of online technologies.

Wisconsin counties have grant money ranging from about $12,500 to $105,000 to develop continuity of operations plans to protect their data and will invest considerably more to implement the plans.

As the efforts in Virginia, New York and Wisconsin demonstrate, storage technologies may not be glamorous, but they form the foundation for e-government initiatives to provide data and services online, initiatives to support continuity of operations in case of disaster and platforms to house resilient records repositories.

The Push for Storage

A number of states are investing in storage technologies less aggressively than Virginia, New York and Wisconsin, but several have above-average investment profiles.

These states generally have proven technology leaders who have built their systems organizations on a strong foundation of technology expertise and mature policies, according to CDW•G’s Technology Investment Curve survey on storage. They focus on investing in technologies with proven success records and weigh a vendor’s reputation as heavily as the technology when making investment decisions.

North Carolina, which already spends on storage technology at a rate 67 percent higher than average, plans to invest further for its Building Enterprise Access for the Core Operation Needs (BEACON) program. Four years in planning and deployment, this overhaul of human resources and payroll services will combine three stove-pipe systems at different agencies into one system managed through the state Controller’s Office.

The program, built around a SAP enterprise resource planning software, will pull data from a variety of storage sources, including a data warehouse for business intelligence functions, says Gwen Canady, chief deputy controller. The first state agencies to go live expect to move to BEACON in January. “This will move us into the 21st century,” Canady says. “This has been a lot of effort, but it will realize a lot of efficiencies.”

  • Lead Investors: New York, Virginia
  • Early Investor: Wisconsin
  • Early Majority Investors: Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington