A recent study by mobile solutions company Citrix found that more than 50 percent of Americans believe weather can affect cloud computing. Meanwhile, California Technology Agency (CTA) officials say this service Americans find so foggy will fundamentally change the way the state operates—in a good way.
And, no, rain does not affect "the cloud." The cloud is simply an approach to the way service providers—in this case, the California Office of Technology Services (OTech)—provide computing services and resources to their constituents.
OTech will pool resources—hardware, software, network connectivity—to offer to state agencies and departments in a shared environment, i.e. a "cloud," meaning individual customers formerly housing their own rack of servers, storage and access will be able to share these computing resources and pay only for their utilization.
At the helms of this new operation is OTech Director Ron Hughes, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2012. Prior to joining OTech, Hughes was the president of the California Data Center Design Group (CDCDG) for ten years where he designed over 3 million square feet of data center space in the US, Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Among the impressive list of projects on Hughes’ resume: KIO Networks data centers in Mexico, Central and South America (the largest provider of cloud services in Latin America), the SCIF data center in Vacaville, and The National Center for Atmospheric Research supercomputer center in Cheyenne Wyoming.
Hughes previously worked for the state at the Stephen P. Teale Data Center from 1990 to 1999 and was the project manager for the new data center at Gold Camp, later leading the Y2K testing for California.
There are currently approximately 800 staff at OTech, which has a budget of roughly $300 million annually. OTech does not receive any support from the general fund; rather, funding is based on fees paid by state agencies and departments.
When Hughes met with these customers to see what they needed as he began his job at OTech, cloud services topped the list—not surprising, according to Hughes.
"When you look at the advantages of cloud services—speed to provision, flexibility, the ability to scale up or down depending on need, cost savings, having a usage-based billing model—these are all things that will make the state’s information technology more efficient and cost-effective," Hughes said.
OTech’s customers will only pay for their scaled utilization—and even have access to virtualized desktops, which will help the state manage things like tablet mobile devices.
The two service offerings OTech will have up and running by the end of Summer 2013: a private cloud to be located on the data center’s raised floor in Sacramento and Vacaville; and a public cloud (shared data) to be located on the vendor’s raised floor. Both services will be vendor-supplied and vendor-supported, but managed by OTech, who will release the Request For Proposal (RFP) in February.
CTA Secretary Carlos Ramos and other government officials are quick to point out the great access to choices customers will have with the cloud offering.
Once the cloud services are in place, customers can choose where to locate their systems: OTech-provided and managed services, Tenant Managed Services (Colocation), private cloud, or public cloud.
"What systems they choose to run in each service offering or where they choose to locate their data will be the customers’ decision, but we would anticipate that systems with significant security or privacy sensitivity would likely be run by OTech-provided private cloud service offerings," Hughes said.
Security vulnerabilities are the biggest concern by government employees. However, a private cloud, located on OTech’s raised floor mitigates most of these concerns, Hughes said.
Intel executive Gregg Descheemaeker furthered Hughes’ point at a recent Techwire In Studio interview alongside Hughes: "If we take lessons learned from public cloud environments that have been in place now for a number of years and what they’ve had to do to ensure the security and privacy of people’s information, whether it be Amazon with transactional-based data or your banking environment, I think there’s a great opportunity in the public sector to improve on security posture based on the inherent capabilities the cloud offers," he said.
Cloud-based services are new to state government, although the federal government has had a cloud first initiative for the last several years. According to Hughes, a number of large states, including Utah and Michigan, are looking to use the same cloud model as California.
Some California city and county governments have already begun taking advantage of the cloud’s speed to deliver public Geo Spatial (GIS) data and more. City of Fresno CIO Carolyn Hogg recently talked with Techwire about Fresno’s creation of a hybrid cloud (public and private) with the City of Clovis and Clovis School District to share GIS data and data for public safety, while also sharing infrastructure for their comprehensive fiber plan.
"We no longer need to have our own individual systems, because there is so much sharing that needs to take place outside of that individual city," she said.
Hughes reiterated Hogg’s comments: "Cities and counties are experiencing similar budgetary challenges as the state," he said. "Having access to cloud services will allow them to significantly reduce their operating costs." He cited cloud-based email as a way to reduce costs through a reliable, secure service.
And for normal Californians who still feel a little hazy when it comes to cloud comprehension? CTA Secretary Carlos Ramos says not to worry.
"In reality, it should be invisible and seamless," he said. "But from the taxpayers perspective, it should be cheaper. Governments should be more responsive and flexible in leveraging technology and by doing that, better able to deliver services to constituents."
This article was originally published in the winter issue of Techwire Magazine.