March | April 2017

Goin Viral Can Have Big Rewards

Delaware’s Cloud First Initiative is saving millions each year and has one of the best returns on investment for state government, according to Jim Sills, the state’s secretary and chief information officer for the Department of Technology and Information. With a private cloud, an organization owns the entire infrastructure necessary to provide computing resources to its end users. Instead of running hundreds of individual servers, Delaware operates one large private cloud that is partitioned off as multiple virtual servers. Sills offers some tips for moving to the cloud.


In Delaware, an agency’s servers are moved to the private cloud when it’s time to upgrade its servers, Sills said. About 80 percent of Delaware’s individual servers now use the state’s cloud, with the rest expected to be on it by 2015. “It cost us between $2 million and $2.5 million to get this environment set up,” Sills said. “We’re saving currently almost $4 million a year, every year. … You’re saving on electricity, you’re saving on space, you’re saving on software licensing and you’re also saving on hardware.”


In Delaware, the state technology department must review and authorize any purchase orders more than $10,000. That gives the technology department a better chance of seeing who is ordering new servers. “With the Cloud First policy, we could say, ‘Hey agency IT director, instead of buying a new physical server, why don’t you move that into our private cloud,’” Sills said. “It’s kind of unusual. Most state governments, from a purchasing standpoint, are very decentralized.”


One of the hardest things for agency leaders to get used to is the idea of giving up managing and purchasing new technology, Sills said. With the private cloud, state agencies rent the virtual servers rather than pay for new hardware every four years. “It’s kind of like leasing a car,” he said. “With our model, there’s no upfront capital dollars. You’re just leasing the infrastructure within the private cloud to host your applications. It’s a pay-as-you-go model. Culturally, it’s difficult for people to get their head around the concept initially, but then they catch on.”


Using a private cloud has some advantages for the state’s technology department too. “You’re more efficient from an IT management perspective,” Sills said. “Instead of managing 1,000 different servers and worrying about them, we are monitoring one or two racks that are the equivalent of those thousand individual servers. Think how much more efficient we are in terms of agility and application up time. … We just have better control of the environment.”


While the private cloud is good for Delaware now, Sills doesn’t think it is the only answer to the state’s server computing needs. You need to keep one eye on the horizon. “I think eventually we’ll have a hybrid cloud,” Sills said. “We’ll have our private cloud, but we’ll have some of the public-facing apps—or nonpersonal data—in a public cloud. It could be an Amazon or Google cloud or another vendor’s cloud. That information would be public (and) wouldn’t have any personally identifiable information. At the present time, the culture here is if it’s personally identifiable data or top secret data, they really want to keep it within our private cloud environment.”