Sometimes, the best way to go big is to first figure out how to be small.
For the city of Doral, Fla., where Gladys Gonzalez is CIO, the solution proved to be hyperconvergence: an IT framework with the capacity to do it all.
It was 2015, and Doral had just launched its smart city initiative for municipal digital transformation, Gonzalez recalls. Focused on making sound technology investments that would enhance citizen services and government efficiencies, IT leaders started with the one thing they knew would be critical to success every step of the way.
“We looked at our infrastructure, and we asked ourselves what it had to do,” Gonzalez says.
The answer, of course, was all about data.
The City of Doral isn’t the only agency to upgrade its data center operations as part of an IT modernization effort. State and local organizations across the country are rethinking and shrinking their data centers in a world where data is king. Drivers for data center consolidation vary depending on the organization. In certain cases, such as Doral, consolidation promised to reduce energy use and “improve the environmental bottom line.”
But the primary benefit, beyond the potential space savings, is smaller IT teams, says Christian Perry, infrastructure senior research analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence.
“When you consolidate, that smaller footprint means you have less infrastructure to manage,” Perry says. He’s constantly hearing from organizations that say they’re short on qualified IT professionals. “When you can’t find experienced people to work in your data centers, consolidation could be your answer. You put one IT generalist in that single spot, and they can take care of everything.”
Increased HCI adoption is one factor enabling this trend, Perry says, but it also has to do with technology advancements, such as higher-density racks and the “cloud-like evolution” of on-premises solutions. “It’s a lot easier now to deploy hybrid cloud,” Perry adds.
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How Dell's Solution Is Making Doral Agile and More Efficient
“To be a smart city — a modern urban environment — you have to be able to collect, communicate and crunch data,” Gonzalez says, pointing to the definition used by the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.
In Doral’s case, the city’s vision included everything from sensor technologies and license plate readers to a GIS portal and video analytics. “Everything is data driven, so you need to have something that can support that,” Gonzalez says.
With that in mind, Gonzalez and her colleagues turned to Dell Technologies to consolidate the city’s two aging data centers into a workload-optimized solution built on a hyperconverged infrastructure. Using Dell EMC VxRail appliances together with the company’s Isilon storage platform, Doral pushed its storage, computing and networking to a new streamlined system now housed in a facility in nearby Miami.
“By moving everything you can think of over there, we now have a smaller data center footprint, but we also have much better scalability,” Gonzalez says.
Because Doral no longer has two separate systems running simultaneously, the city reaps environmental gains through improved energy efficiency. The Dell solution has also been a boon for systems administrators, who can now manage everything in one place, and it’s put Doral in a perfect position to be ready for anything that comes in the future.
As the city grows and gets “smarter” with new technologies for processing and analyzing data, its collection and storage requirements will inevitably increase as well, Gonzalez says. With the old approach, Doral would have frequently ripped out infrastructure to replace legacy solutions with new equipment to handle extra volume. With HCI, however, storage growth is simple: All that’s needed is additional nodes.
“Instead of being stuck with something that lacks the flexibility to expand and adapt, we’re in a place where we can easily evolve,” Gonzalez says.
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Data Center Consolidation Is Helping California Local Governments
Lovell Hopper, manager of infrastructure services at the California Office of Emergency Services, can attest to the advantages that come with data center consolidation and optimization.
Cal OES helps local governments throughout California plan and respond to emergencies ranging from wildfires and earthquakes to terrorist bomb threats. A few years ago, as the agency was expanding, Hopper and his team realized it was time to rethink their data center strategy.
Every time Cal OES set up a new office, Hopper says, “we’d roll out a rack’s worth of equipment, and it would take up a lot of space, it would use a lot of power, and it would make a lot of noise. And on top of all that, we’d often be short on staff. We didn’t necessarily have the people to manage it.”
The agency’s solution was an HCI product: the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud platform.
“I liked the vision that Nutanix had to combine everything and have it all work together,” Hopper says. He describes the platform as a “rack-space-type cloud environment with building blocks” that are easy to add to as the agency grows.
Consolidating data centers under the Nutanix umbrella has improved Cal OES’s capabilities mostly because “it’s one throat to choke,” Hopper quips. Today, the agency has just two people devoted to managing its entire virtual infrastructure.
The solution has also helped Cal OES achieve a 75 percent reduction in rack space while cutting its power consumption in half. And finally, with its hybrid-cloud setup, the agency now rests relatively easy knowing it has redundancy and availability built into the system.
“We’re in the disaster management business,” Hopper says. “No matter what happens, we have to be up and running. We’ve got to be able to respond.”
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