A Dash of Cloud May Provide More Capabilities
As expected, Delaware County’s data center refresh included a cloud component. In addition to implementing cloud-based Microsoft 365, OneDrive and SharePoint for user productivity and data, along with hybrid deployments of Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory, the county took the opportunity to explore specific cloud-based security solutions that would complement its data center resources.
“We had on-premises Cisco Secure Email and Secure Web Appliance, and as they reached end of life, we looked to handle those capabilities in the cloud,” Cucciarre says.
Operating in a rural area, admins can find it difficult to hire IT personnel skilled in the county’s various platforms, and so far, the county board has been hesitant to fully embrace remote work, he says. The refresh gave Delaware County IT a chance to move certain tasks to the cloud.
“By moving our Secure Email and Secure Web Appliance to the cloud, we save money, and Cisco keeps the software up to date,” Cucciarre says.
At some point, the county may also move its Cisco Unified Communications System, which was upgraded in the data center refresh, to the cloud.
“We’ve got years of experience on our team, but we may not be able to replace them all, so we’re looking at running all of this with a limited staff,” Cucciarre says.
READ MORE: Here are five questions government agencies can ask about software-defined data centers.
Hyperconverged Infrastructure Can Modernize a Data Center
Indeed, as government data centers evolve, IT staffing often remains lean. In such cases, refreshes are an opportunity for greater simplification. In its 2023 report of state CIO’s top 10 strategic priorities, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers includes data center consolidation and optimization alongside modernization and cloud adoption.
Grant County, Ind., which employs about 400 workers, has an IT department of three. When it began its refresh in 2022, the county was looking to replace aging infrastructure with newer versions of what it already had. But in the process, its scope broadened to include simplified converged solutions.
“With a small crew, it can be hard to manage everything,” says Marcus Elliott, Grant County IT director. “So we went with basically a new hyperconverged infrastructure.”
Rather than upgrade its existing data center systems, Grant County installed new Scale Computing appliances, which combine virtualization, servers, storage, backup and disaster recovery. The change required migrating legacy virtual machines to the Scale Computing hypervisor, but Elliott has been impressed with how easy it’s been to manage virtual machines on the new system.
Grant County also opted to replace its existing network infrastructure with Fortinet converged switches and swapped out its existing firewall for FortiGate unified threat protection.
“We wanted to leverage the extra security features with the Fortinet gear,” Elliott says. “We still have some of the older switches, but we’ll replace those over the next few years.”
Elliott estimates the new data center infrastructure cost the county at least 20 percent less than what replacing its decade-old systems would have cost. “It’s not that there was anything wrong with what we had before,” he says. “It was time for a change. I didn’t want anything holding us back.”
For its part, Delaware County’s data center refresh has been a huge step in the right direction. The upgrades have made it easier for employees to log on remotely, seamlessly initiate conferencing and collaboration sessions, and securely access applications throughout the county. “The performance of our new infrastructure has made a lot of departments happier,” Cucciarre says.