Nov 09 2020

Virginia Boots Up New Cloud-Enabled Data Center

The new data center will allow the state to virtualize servers and enhance security, IT officials say.

Government IT modernization can sometimes take on the look of a pie-in-the-sky discussion about digital transformation. However, the nuts and bolts of technology upgrades that make transformation happen are always being tightened behind the scenes.

In Virginia, those efforts are well underway, as the commonwealth launched its migration to a cloud-enabled data center. The new data center went live in mid-August, and migrations began on Sept. 12, the Virginia Information Technologies Agency announced on Oct. 7.

VITA is coordinating with 32 state agencies to migrate servers to the data center. As of Oct. 7, the agency had migrated 225 and expects to complete the process by 2022. The move is expected to allow Virginia to virtualize many of its physical servers and enhance cybersecurity.

The project was undertaken in accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 19, a 2018 order that pushed state agencies to “aggressively” incorporate the use of cloud technologies into state IT service delivery models. VITA said in a statement that the move “will allow for technology investments to be scaled to usage for greater cost savings and create opportunities to improve service performance while maintaining security, service reliability and quality.”

A Timely Shift to Cloud-Based Infrastructure

“Our overall investments include continuing to work on our data center move,” Virginia CIO Nelson Moe told StateTech last month during the 2020 NASCIO annual conference. “We are track to move out of our data center here in Chester to move up to a data center in Henrico.”

Moe said the state’s agencies would be moving their compute capabilities and applications to the new data center over the next calendar year.

Virginia, Moe said, remains “interested in making sure we have investments for continuing to migrate to cloud technology, both public and private, a hybrid approach. We see the speed and scale for cloud. That’s exciting.”

The shift to the new data center was also driven by a few deadlines, including the lease expiring on the old data center in Chester.

“The commonwealth saw a simultaneous opportunity where we knew we needed to get eventually out of the building because our lease was coming up,” Virginia CISO Mike Watson tells StateScoop. “And we said we’ve got all this equipment that’s close to end-of-life, this is a great time for us to focus on a commonwealth-wide effort to consolidate and virtualize much of the equipment together.”

Virginia has been able to shrink the footprint of its data center and avoid buying lots of new IT equipment as a result of the move, Watson says.

The shift to the cloud-enabled data center is also being driven by cybersecurity concerns. “The nice thing about this is you get a chance to clear away a little bit of the cobwebs,” Watson tells StateScoop, “clean up a few of the things that probably needed to be looked at a little more closely, and we also find out a lot of times where there are things where you go, ‘How did that get there?’”

Virginia’s state networks experience 30 million cyberattack attempts per year, according to Watson. “Leveraging these new capabilities will significantly enhance our ability to respond and contain those who try to compromise state systems,” he said in the press release.

LEARN MORE: How can states best modernize legacy IT systems?

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