New York City Tranforms Technology Infrastructure

The CIO of New York City has one of the most demanding IT jobs in the world—one that involves providing technology services or support to more than 50 city agencies, approximately 300,000 employees, about 225,000 businesses and some 8.2 million residents across the five boroughs.

That’s the challenge facing Carole Post, the recently appointed CIO and commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). In January, she succeeded Paul Cosgrave, who retired as commissioner at the end of 2009, and began crafting her vision of how DoITT can most efficiently and cost-effectively service its constituents.

“When I started as commissioner in January, Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg charged me with developing a 30-day report that would be a road map for IT during the mayor’s third term,” Post said. “That vision is centered on three concepts: service delivery, accountability and core competencies.”

The goal was to create a comprehensive technology strategy designed to provide more coordinated, effective and efficient citywide IT services, building on the foundation that Cosgrave started. Bloomberg has made it clear that “government should constantly be looking for new and better ways to provide information and services,” and that’s the mandate he’s given to DoITT.

The first part of Post’s road map, service delivery, involves providing top-notch IT services to the city agencies and the public. “We want to be the finest IT delivery service that we can be,” Post said. “Our goal is to be on the leading edge of new technology, as opposed to playing catch-up, as governments tend to do.”

The second area, accountability, involves performance metrics and accountability. “We plan to augment what we already have in terms of performance metrics on the delivery of IT services, filling in where we have gaps,” she said. “We also plan to implement new levels of accountability for our vendors, partners and service providers.”

To execute on the third concept, core competencies, DoITT will articulate what those competencies are. “We’ll determine the areas in which we should be best in class, as well as the areas that are not moving us forward,” Post explained. “We’ll figure out how to do some things differently and where we should do less of other things. We don’t need to be all things to all people. We’ll focus our efforts on modernizing the back-office applications, such as data center consolidation.”

In fact, citywide data center consolidation is one of the primary recommendations of Post’s report to the mayor. By modernizing and consolidating its outdated data infrastructure, the city expects to save up to $100 million over five years.

At a press conference held on March 1, Bloomberg stated: “Today, city agencies are embracing new technology, constantly adding hardware and software to improve services and make information more readily available to the public. Instead of building these systems on the often-outdated and varied IT systems that exist at individual agencies, we will consolidate them in state-of-the-art data centers that can support the growing needs of forward-thinking agencies while saving the city tens of million of dollars.”

Consolidating to Save Taxpayer Dollars

Beyond providing world-class service delivery, DoITT aims to reduce costs and make the city more sustainable by consolidating its 50 data centers, which serve approximately four dozen agencies.

In his State of the City speech, Bloomberg pledged “to achieve cost savings by reducing redundancies within city agencies, including information technology resources.” One initiative is the Citywide IT Infrastructure Services program (CITIServ), whereby DoITT will build a standardized infrastructure that will give agencies the same secure data centers they currently have, but through a shared structure that will provide a lower cost of operation, reduced energy consumption, stronger security and improved services.

CITIServ offerings include help desk, hosting, storage, e-mail, virtualization and network services. DoITT plans to start migrating agencies to these offerings later this year. The first to be migrated will be the departments of Education, Buildings, Housing Preservation and Development, Sanitation and Finance.

These migrations will build on the consolidation efforts that have been going on in the city for years, with DoITT centralizing mainframes, servers, networks and e-mail systems, as well as virtualizing servers.

“We started out with close to 1,000 physical boxes, and we virtualized down to about 300 boxes, for a current total of about 800 virtual machines,” said Michael Bimonte, deputy commissioner, IT Services, DoITT. “We’ve converted them to virtual systems and have between a 15-1 and a 20-1 ratio. We have signed enterprise license agreements with the primary vendor, VMware, for the virtualization, and that’s enabled a lot of the city agencies to take advantage of virtualization.”

The fact that New York City has been in the virtualization business for at least two years gives it a leg up because virtualization is the technology driving cloud computing.

“We’ve moved from the planning stage to the operational stage on this initiative,” Post said, adding that DoITT is far along in its negotiations to acquire leases for the first of two new data centers.