As cloud computing has matured and adoption has spiked, government agencies have increasingly turned to technology to trim costs, improve operational efficiency, and boost the overall level of service to citizens and other agencies. Simply put: Clouds enable new business models and dramatically improve interaction. They redefine the way government organizations deploy and manage IT services.
One state at the forefront of this trend is California. Last month, the Golden State unveiled a new cloud-based IT model that allows it to procure and deliver infrastructure services in a far more agile and innovative way. “The cloud not only lowers the cost of IT services and provides more strategic capabilities, it also introduces a shared resources model that greatly improves flexibility,” states Ron Hughes, chief deputy state CIO in California’s Department of Technology.
In the past, state departments and groups had to procure IT resources individually, even though most did not use servers, storage and other IT systems to capacity. However, by virtualizing IT through a private cloud, “It is possible to allocate resources exactly as they are needed and when they are needed,” Hughes explains.
Instead of the state controlling IT centrally, “Each department has its own virtual data center,” he says. “They dial up and down resources on demand through a portal.” The approach allows various departments to adjust to constantly changing conditions and pay only for what they use.
The infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution, powered by IBM and dubbed CalCloud, promises to revolutionize IT in the state. So far, more than 20 departments have requested IT services through the CalCloud service model and that number will almost certainly rise in the months ahead.
Because the private cloud works on a usage-based model, California pays IBM only for the resources it consumes. “This represents an innovative approach to IT within a public-private partnership,” Hughes notes.
The benefits aren’t limited to increased flexibility, however. Hughes says that cloud computing introduces other capabilities, including improved data sharing and exchange across agencies and departments. This, in turn, makes it easier to incorporate data into Websites and provide citizens with the information they require to accomplish various tasks.
“We are looking to post data sets as part of an overall open data initiative,” he reports. “Departments will have access to analytics tools that allow them to view, manage and manipulate data.” The state plans to have the analytics system running within the next six months.
California is also working with IBM to implement best practices in cloud computing, IT resource management and security. “In the private sector, this is something that is pretty well-perfected,” Hughes explains. “However, this approach hasn’t previously been used in the public sector.”
As a result, the state had to fundamentally remap business processes and procedures. It also had to redesign numerous systems to accommodate the cloud, along with the different business and IT model it introduces.
“CalCloud will deliver significant savings,” Hughes predicts. “More importantly, the cloud will allow us to operate in a way that better matches the needs and requirements of our users. It’s a perfect example of a public-private partnership in which everyone gains.”