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CIO Offers Best Practices, Takeaways on Cloud Migration

Moving to the cloud doesn’t always make sense or pencil out, the municipal IT leader said, presenting issues for officials to examine as they consider the journey.

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Rob Lloyd
Local government’s journey to cloud is far from over, and the technology leader of one Silicon Valley stalwart offered a frank appraisal of how it’s going, along with advice for his peers.

Joined by compatriots from other jurisdictions during a session of Beyond the Beltway 2021, held virtually Thursday, San Jose Chief Information Officer Rob Lloyd examined municipalities’ needs and what it takes to make a cloud migration a reality. Among the takeaways:

  • Previous investments in cloud proved vital for San Jose during the pandemic — but despite that, Lloyd said he’s never been “cloud-first.” That’s because the city uses a total cost of ownership (TCO) model to chart out hardware, software, services, personnel, maintenance and support. More than half the time, Lloyd said, going to the cloud “doesn’t make sense,” noting that “when we start talking about the service levels we maintain internally,” prices or contract exceptions increase. And not every vendor, he said, is a good partner for cloud. “But, where it makes sense, it’s been transformational for us.” For San Jose, that has included utilizing Microsoft Office 365 and working with CherryRoad Technologies and Oracle on a transition to Infrastructure as a Service to run the city’s payroll. Without that transition roughly four years ago, Lloyd said during the event’s “The Amazing Race – Cloud” segment, the city wouldn’t have been able to run payroll as effectively in the current virtual environment.
  • Savings from moving mainframe apps to the cloud generated, generally, zero, the San Jose CIO said. In most cases, in fact, it cost a bit more, he said — but he pointed out that the city needed a bit more from its new environment than what it used to maintain, “so, there’s a value add and a cost add. But there’s a couple that are a bit more expensive.” Government revenue, Lloyd emphasized, rises only by about 3 percent a year on average; and he highlighted how “out of sync” it can be to get large price increases from vendors.
  • Cloud adoption is “a trust measure,” Lloyd said — do officials trust it can work and can they trust long-term that it will treat them well? “And I think that’s why you’ve seen cloud adoption be somewhat expensive for the past 10 years, is we haven’t answered those questions together effectively enough,” he said. Success in the cloud has been greatest for the city where it has addressed a “very clear purpose,” the CIO said.
    “As opposed to a general adoption theme, it’s ‘We’re making this move and making this investment for a real reason,’ and then we have the ability on the economic side, administrative side, of how we’re going to manage it well,” Lloyd said. “Where it’s been more amorphous, it hasn’t really returned a lot of value for us.”
  • Asked by moderator Alan Cox, e.Republic executive vice president and publisher of Techwire and its sister publication Government Technology magazine, for some of the main reasons to go to cloud, and challenges to overcome in that process, Lloyd said the city has told its vendors that if it can’t manage and “truly administer a good cloud solution,” it’s not going to do it. Vendors that want to be successful should demonstrate their product’s flexibility to scale up and down, and the ability to estimate usage. Variance, he said, is “very destructive” to government entities, which may well be required by law to stay in budget. Vendors should discuss the value they’ll be able to produce in partnership with the government entity — that theirs is a “proven technology that we’re going able to administer”; and that they’ll be able to “help our people take to it.” 
    “Then, the last thing for us is, there is no one cloud provider who’s ever going to rule them all, no matter what anyone tells me,” he said. “So, we actually build for that flexibility.”  
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.