Oct 17 2013

Governments Improve Service Delivery with Unified Computing

Agency IT pros can roll out new services and boost performance at a reduced cost.

A unified computing platform has made a world of difference to the way King County, Wash., delivers IT services.

“If an agency has a need, they don’t have to wait up to three months to get something online,” says Bob Micielli, the county’s enterprise technology services manager. “We guarantee a 48-hour turnaround.”

The dramatically improved service levels are just the tip of the iceberg — the county’s overall data center management has improved, Micielli says, thanks to its new FlexPod infrastructure.

Prior to deploying the FlexPod unified computing system, the county ran a mix of different servers, switches and storage. It also had multiple hypervisors, and the IT staff managed all three major systems separately.

King County standardized on Microsoft’s Hyper-V server virtualization, Cisco Systems' Unified Computing System servers and switches, and NetApp storage. Micielli says King County chose Hyper-V because it was already a Microsoft shop and could save on licensing by using its enterprise licensing agreement.

The county reports dramatic savings from deploying FlexPod — $700,000 in reduced hardware and facility costs. In the next year or two, Micielli expects to cut King County’s $172,000 annual electric bill by half. “We really like that, with FlexPod, we can buy more storage or blades and use the hypervisor we want,” he says. “FlexPod also gives us the ability to standardize all our agencies on one unified set of technologies.”

Mark Bowker, a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, says King County’s deployment of what ESG calls an integrated computing platform makes sense, especially in light of the improved service levels. “It gives them the ability to roll out applications much faster and not worry about the infrastructure,” he says. “They also have one number to call for service, and these integrated consortiums can get parts out faster.”

Pick and Choose

Bob Clarke, manager of enterprise services for the Indiana Office of Technology, takes a modified approach to a unified computing platform. The state leverages the combined server/switching infrastructure offered by Cisco UCS, but opts to run and manage VMware virtualization and EMC storage separately.

36% The percentage of 2013 IT budgets allocated to new technology projects and purchases that deliver positive ROI and competitive advantage to the organization

SOURCE: “Market Landscape Reports: Integrated Computing Platforms” (Enterprise Strategy Group, June 2013)

“The Cisco UCS gear is less messy and saves us on cabling costs,” Clarke says. “We like managing the infrastructure separately because it gives us more flexibility to service our customers. Plus, we have the talent on staff who can manage each of the systems.”

Overall, Clarke says moving to a virtual environment with VMware and Cisco UCS has improved the state’s ability to roll out applications. Right now, the state’s servers are about 51 percent virtualized; Clark seeks to reach 90 percent in the next year or so.

“There’s no question that there’s a night and day difference with the new infrastructure,” Clarke says, adding that the state realized a payback on the new infrastructure in 2.6 years.

Four Advantages of Unified Computing Platforms

Mark Bowker, senior analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, outlines four primary reasons that integrated infrastructure appeals to IT shops.

  • Improved management. Thanks to tools that automate many common IT tasks, unified computing transitions IT departments from administrators of component infrastructure to managers of holistic systems. That’s a major shift for many IT organizations. This integration helps IT departments reduce overhead, streamline daily operational tasks and improve long-term capacity planning.
  • Accelerated time-to-value. Thanks to the faster deployment of IT infrastructure, VMs and apps, integrated computing platforms get systems online faster and with less effort. IT management has recognized time-to-value as a primary return-on-investment metric for ICPs and uses this metric to help justify investments.
  • Increased user productivity. Faster time-to-market and improved reliability make end users more productive. Employee productivity isn't always easy for IT departments to measure, but Bowker says streamlined app deployment puts software into the hands of users faster.
  • Streamlined service and support. Troubleshooting and root-cause analysis of three separate infrastructure platforms can be time-consuming and a logistical nightmare. A single point of contact for deployment and tech support aids troubleshooting, crisis prevention and IT staff alignment.
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