Oct 16 2019

NASCIO 2019: States Embrace Infrastructure as a Service

West Virginia and Mississippi IT leaders described modernizing their data centers by embracing private sector cloud providers.

Speaking Tuesday at the annual conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, West Virginia CTO Joshua Spence said his state will soon release a request for proposals to outsource the state’s data center.

West Virginia has long faced challenges due to aging technology, Spence said. “I inherited a data center that hasn't had any major investment in years,” he said.

When the state looked at options, Spence decided that investing in Infrastructure as a Service made the most sense. With the new model, the state will benefit from current tech, and it can expand services as required. Still, the change requires educating the state agencies that are not used to paying for tech services. The transition ushers in a change where state agencies pay for support as an operational expense instead of infrastructure as a capital expense.

“Our agencies are used to making a big capital expenditure for technology that has a seven-year life cycle and using it for 14 years,” Spence said. “That's a great return on investment, but it’s very bad from a technical and security perspective.”

Spence encouraged the public to review technology spending as another utility bill. “They know what's going to happen if they don't pay the electric bill. It's going to get turned off. But they don't view technology that way, although they should,” he said.

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Mississippi Found Success with Outsourcing Its Data Center

Steve Patterson, Mississippi’s Emerging Technology Coordinator, said his state embraced IaaS long ago.

Mississippi has a decentralized tech governance model where 22 agencies, boards and commissions can “do their own thing” as long as they adhere to established policies, Patterson said during a NASCIO panel on data centers.

When the state began running out of storage, it looked to a managed services solution. Mississippi released an RFP for IaaS and awarded a contract. It then phased out its in-house data center, which had served its time, in favor of a private sector service.

Mississippi cities and counties also can use the state IaaS contracts, which provide private cloud and hybrid cloud services. Mississippi strongly encourages all agencies to use the contracts, although they can fight to contract for their own services in a public cloud option, using Google or Azure services, for example.

“When an agency comes to us and says, ‘I need to be on Azure,’ the first question we will ask is, ‘Why not private cloud?’” Patterson said.

If the agency can defend its requirements, it is permitted to go with an additional outside service instead of using the established cloud contracts.

Patterson and Spence also agreed that the IaaS contracts enable them to capitalize on emerging technology like AI in ways they could not with an in-house data center.

Check out more articles and videos from StateTech’s coverage of NASCIO 2019 conference here.

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