Aug 31 2018

State and Local Agencies Support Their Peers with Private Cloud Services

Government agencies have found ways to save time and money while pooling expertise by supporting their fellow agencies through cloud offerings.

Unlike in the private sector, state and local government agencies do not compete against each other directly for profits. More often than not, they lend one another a helping hand. That is happening with a fast-growing area of government technology: private cloud.

Gartner recently observed trends in government adoption of public and private cloud, forecasting that government use of public cloud services would grow 17.1 percent on average per year through 2021.

“Arguably, local governments are better positioned to benefit from increased spending on cloud as shrinking budgets, changing demographics and rising expectations for digital engagement place them at the apex of the need for transformation,” a Gartner post states. Still, governments will adopt private cloud at twice the rate of public cloud through 2021, Gartner predicted in April.

The experiences of the California Department of Technology and Oakland County, Mich., a state and a local agency, respectively, that provide cloud services to their peers, illustrate the appeal of using private cloud services as necessary to support fellow agencies.

State Agency Expands Private Cloud with IaaS Support

CDT began offering cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service to other state agencies in 2014, says Deputy State CIO Chris Cruz. At the time, CDT offered that support only through on-premises private cloud; now, it supports a hybrid model featuring Microsoft Azure and other products, offering both IaaS and Platform as a Service.

“We saw CalCloud as a way to streamline services, create efficiencies and standardize the state’s IT infrastructure,” Cruz says. “A lot of its evolution now is about developing a common security posture for the state.”

Today, some 17 state agencies sign on to CalCloud, including the Department of Child Support Services and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Through the service, they can access a wide range of self-service offerings, from web hosting and email to identity management and virtual desktops.

That’s down from a peak of 28 a few years ago, says Scott MacDonald, CDT’s deputy director for network and cloud services. Several agencies that started out on CalCloud have since migrated to the public cloud as the cost of those services has declined and agencies have become more comfortable with the level of security offered by Microsoft and others.

The agencies that have stayed prefer to keep their data on-premises, have latency concerns or appreciate the hands-on support provided by CalCloud, he adds. Still, as more agencies migrate the public cloud, CDT will be there to help them.

“It’s our mission to lower the overall cost to the state and our constituents, and working with the cloud services is one way to accomplish that,” MacDonald says.

Private Cloud Supports SaaS from Government to Government

Oakland County, Mich., a suburban enclave northwest of Detroit with 1.2 million citizens, has been providing software as a service to smaller state agencies since 2011, says CIO Phil Bertolini.

The county built its public sector portal with solutions including Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint, NetApp storage and more. Today, the county’s G2G Cloud Solutions provides payment services for more than 100 public entities across Michigan, including Macomb County, the city of Allen Park and the 18th District Court in the city of Westland.

G2G provides over-the-counter card swipe machines as well as online payment processing services to agencies for free. Small transaction fees pay for the system; the more users G2G accrues, the lower the fees become, and all revenues are re-invested in the technology, Bertolini says.

The reason Oakland County launched G2G is because “it’s pretty hard for people to use technology with another government’s name slapped on it,” Bertolini says. “We created the brand to make it easier for other governments to consume it.”

“Quite honestly, we were worried that citizens in smaller villages were being disenfranchised by being unable to do business with their governments,” he adds. “We believe bigger governments should help smaller ones with these technologies.”

Oakland County has also launched a G2G marketplace where governments across the globe can access information on best practices in cybersecurity, social media and more, along with competitive bid contracts from 20 vendors who sell services to government.

The marketplace helps connect smaller entities with businesses that might otherwise overlook them as potential customers, he says — and that lowers the cost for Oakland County.

“Every time someone buys off one of those contracts, the vendor is required to lower the cost for all its customers,” Bertolini adds. “As a government entity, I can’t make a profit, but if you lower my costs, that’s a win for my taxpayers.”

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