Clear Skies Ahead

While some government technology planners might still see cloud computing as a fad, many more are finding practical ways to extract real savings and improved service from cloud computing. And still others have made cloud computing a cornerstone of their overall IT strategy. For example, Michigan and Utah have made sweeping changes based on a robust cloud computing strategy comprising public and private cloud services.

Both states were in the process of consolidating their data centers when they realized that a virtualized data center could form part of a more comprehensive cloud strategy. Server virtualization allows IT to provision server instances for state and local agencies in close to real time, practically eliminating lengthy procurement cycles. One of the biggest benefits to cloud computing is that it enables IT to more quickly respond to customer demand.

Cloud-seeking states are being cheered on by federal CIO Vivek Kundra, who is pushing forward with his own cloud provisioning model for the federal government. Kundra hails cloud computing as part of the solution to rationalize a federal system that includes more than 2,000 data centers. Although the challenges faced by the states are not nearly as large, they're nevertheless significant.

In Utah, our cloud strategy is based on an understanding that government can benefit from tapping the inherent advantages of both the public and private cloud. During an 8-month period, we consolidated IT infrastructure and data centers into two locations to reap savings of more than $4 million per year. We've eliminated 35 data centers, and we're sharing access to our computing resources with local governments and education, creating more cost-effective opportunities for smaller governmental entities.

The Utah strategy takes a multifaceted approach to cloud structure:

  • Infrastructure as a service;
  • Platform as a service;
  • Software as a service;
  • Authentication and security services.

Virtualized servers have enabled Utah to significantly reduce its hardware footprint while improving functionality and service. The new platform gives us flexibility to provision virtual servers in real time, freeing agencies from the time-consuming task of hardware procurement. Platform provisioning bundles basic IT services, such as operating system, database services and development platforms, into one simple provisioning process so that systems can be implemented in reduced time.

During the past five years, Utah has reduced IT staffing by about 20 percent, making it critical for the state to implement efficiency measures such as those offered by cloud computing. Over time, an increasing number of services will be provisioned in this way.

Because our IT service model emphasizes service levels that are updated each year in agency service-level agreements, IT carefully monitors performance of the service levels on the server farm to ensure that service levels can be met and expands the server farm as needed to meet future demands.

Demand for IT services and automation will continue to grow. Cloud services are critical to meeting this demand.

Jan 04 2011