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L.A. Completes Migration to State Data Center: 'This Is a Big Deal'

The city's shift from in-house mainframes to the State Data Center, which officially happened last week, was the seamless culmination of a three-year, $10.5 million contract, with an option to renew.

The city of Los Angeles has completed the migration of its mainframe business applications to the California Department of Technology’s State Data Center in Rancho Cordova, state officials said Thursday.

The city’s shift from in-house storage and computing to offsite, which officially happened last week, is the culmination of an agreement announced a year ago. Under the terms of the contract, the city will pay the state $10.5 million for a three-year contract, with an option for three additional years if needed.

“The State Data Center is helping the city of L.A. provide more effective and efficient government services to residents,” said state Chief Information Officer Amy Tong, director of CDT. “This is an example of how the state collaborates with local government partners statewide to deliver One Digital Government for all Californians.”

The migration had been in discussion for several years, as Techwire reported a year ago when the current contract was first announced.

“For the past five years, we have strived to modernize operations through public and private cloud options,” Los Angeles CIO Ted Ross told Techwire at the time. “The move to migrate away from our 30-year-old legacy system to the state’s secure, cloud-based environment will greatly improve our ability to serve and protect the people of Los Angeles.” He echoed those comments in Thursday’s announcement.

In a blog post announcing the migration, the state IT agency said: “CDT is a leader within the public mainframe community, providing innovative, reliable, and secure information technology services to state agencies, educational institutions, and local government entities. While mainframe still serves a key role in mission-critical systems in the financial sector, law enforcement and elsewhere, many of the trained staff have retired. That’s just one of the factors that led the City of LA to make the move to the State Data Center. Other benefits include having the State Data Center provide experienced 24/7 mainframe support, disaster recovery services, the State’s purchasing power for licensing, and avoiding the cost of replacing aging equipment.”

CDT credited a close partnership with the city’​s Information Technology Agency and various other city departments that were involved in the migration, including public safety agencies and entities dealing with business applications and data.

Veronica Gilliard, CDT’s Deputy Director of Platform Services, said that in all, the project involved about 130 people — about 50 from the city and about 80 from CDT.

“We actually migrated the city of L.A. on Feb 26 — that was the actual day we migrated them, and they went into full production,” Gilliard told Techwire on Thursday. “They were up and running, and it was seamless. We were working together to this point, where it was just another day in the life at CDT and for the city, really.”

Ellen Ishimoto, the state’s acting Chief Technology Officer, credited a lot of planning for the “uneventful” switch.

“It only goes seamless if you do your planning right,” Ishimoto said, “and we spent months planning for this. ... This was a really big deal.”

Ishimoto said the state welcomes any other government entities that want an arrangements similar to the one with Los Angeles.

“I think there might be other opportunities for other cities and counties that are running mainframe systems that, like the city of L.A., were struggling with 'How do we find resources to continue supporting it?’” Ishimoto said. “So we’re hoping it’s not a one-off; we hope it will be the first of many other cities utilizing our services.” She said the successful migration of such a large city to the State Data Center should reassure others that the move is a safe one.

Before her promotion to her current role, Gilliard had been the manager over the mainframe services team. As such, it was she who helped develop the migration's statement of work, made sure the teams had what they needed, and served as the project sponsor.

Ishimoto said that as acting CTO, “I’m right now acting over the Data Center, so I played more of an executive sponsor (role) ... throughout. We were having weekly meetings with the city of L.A. that Veronica and I participated in.”

In the week since the switch occurred, both executives agreed, the transition has experienced no snags or hiccups. 

Said Gilliard: “We have a lot of rock stars, both here at CDT and with the city of L.A.”

Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in Northern California.