August 27, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
Hurricanes are notorious for disabling technology by cutting off electricity. In some cases, the threat of coming storms can overwhelm our phone systems and websites. But technology is also being used in new ways to prepare for and clean up after natural disasters, like Hurricane Irene.
As Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina on Saturday morning, millions of people up and down the East Coast braced for the worst. Despite reports that the storm had weakened, thousands of people were already evacuated and others who stayed on the coast lost power. Prior to the storm, Major League Baseball rescheduled games. New Jersey even closed casinos for only the third time ever.
What to do?
Many websites offer quick tips and checklists to help before, during and after such weather emergencies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers this checklist which helps you decide: Are You Ready?
The Seattle Times offered some tips for communicating during Irene and other similar emergencies. For example: “Cellphone companies recommend text messaging rather than calling in any disaster, because text messages use much less network capacity. They also don't use much battery power. Using Facebook and Twitter can be tempting, but try to keep usage brief and use the apps rather than web browsers if possible, to minimize network use and battery drain.”
Fox News Business offered these: Apps and Websites to Help Brace for Irene. I especially like their list of people (actually organizations) to add to your Twitter feed, from FEMA to NOAA to the the Red Cross.
USA.gov offers these tips for recovering after hurricanes.
Information Week reported on FEMA’s new mobile web app that can help during emergencies. I find this section to be very interesting:
“FEMA built the application to work even when there is no mobile service so people can access the information they need to anytime on their device….
People can text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) to sign up for monthly disaster safety tips; SHELTER+ their ZIP code to the same number to find the nearest shelter in their respective areas; and DRC and their ZIP code to the same number for information about the nearest disaster recovery center.”
Governments up and down the East Coast have issued warnings, and they are implementing their preparation, evacuation & recovery plans. Offices of Public Safety are activating emergency centers and shelters, and information is being sent via a wide variety of channels, including new mobile web sources.
For those who are not involved in the current Hurricane Irene emergency situation on the East Coast, teams are being sent from around the country to assist in the cleanup. Others are using this as an opportunity to stress hurricane readiness.
In summary, technology can help fight the negative impacts of hurricanes. Governments and citizens can learn the lessons from the past, and prepare for weather emergencies in new ways.
August 15, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
Governments across North America are now consolidating data centers at an unprecedented pace. This is not just talk, but real action is (finally) occurring. Welcome to the “new normal” in global technology efficiency, with federal, state, local and even international governments participating.
Want proof that this is happening? Here are a few example articles and some excerpts from each:
The Canadian Government is closing nearly all of their datacenters.
"Canada’s government announced Thursday, Aug. 4, it will shut down more than 90 percent of its 300 data centers, leaving the nation with fewer than 20 when the plan is complete.
In addition, Canada’s government will make the move away from 100 different e-mail platforms to one all-encompassing system. Furthermore, all resources associated with the delivery of e-mail, data center and network services are being transferred from 44 departments and agencies to a new entity called Shared Services Canada."
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is moving aggressively to close data centers right now.
"As part of broader Defense Department plans to streamline IT operations and meet mandated efficiency requirements, 44 military data centers will be closed by the end of the fiscal year, according to DOD CIO Teri Takai.
'As we look to improve efficiency, one of our ongoing targets is the management and use of data centers. We have closed eight data centers since the IT Reform plan was published, and we intend to close another 44 by the end of FY2011,' Takai wrote in a blog poston cio.gov. 'DOD remains committed to identifying candidates for data center closure and consolidation in support of the [defense secretary’s] efficiency efforts and the IT Reform plan goal of closing 800 federal data centers by 2015.'”
Other federal agencies are closing data centers. The federal overall opportunity for savings may be as high as $18.8 billion.
"Federal agencies could save $18.8 billion1 from their data center consolidation efforts, according to a new study from MeriTalk, the government information technology (IT) network. That amount could pay the entire combined IT bill for the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Interior for a year."
"In a joint press release of the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology and Minnesota Management and Budget agency, the state announced that it is seeking to reduce its current data center count from 36 to only 2 to 4 within five years."
"A new 18,000 square-foot data center in downtown Brooklyn opened Monday, which is designed to consolidate the technology infrastructure of 19 agencies over the next year and that of more than 40 agencies over the next five years….
The new consolidated data center will cost the city $11.7 million in equipment fees and another $2.7 million a year to lease the space at the MetroTech Center, but will ultimately help the city save about $100 million over the five-year period alone."
Why are they consolidating?
First of all, closing data centers clearly saves dollars. “The Obama administration expects to save $3 billion over the next four years by consolidating 800 data centers, including 137 this year.”
Second, consolidating data centers can improve security and agility:
"The simple fact is, cloud computing and datacenter consolidation, when implemented smartly and with a detailed plan in mind, can make your data and services MORE SECURE than your traditional datacenter environment can.
In addition to the cost savings, agility, flexibility, transparency and other benefits that cloud services and datacenter consolidation bring to the federal government, they can help to make federal agencies more secure."
Third, this trend paves the way for cloud computing. As EMC says here, you can streamline your infrastructure through consolidation and prepare for virtualized data centers and private cloud computing. I agree, and also add that hybrid and public cloud use are certainly next for most of us.
Are there any downsides to closing datacenters?
There are several sources that say consolidating data centers introduces more complexity. Others find it difficult to quantify savings because they can’t fully measure current costs, or they struggle to come to grips with an overall loss of jobs. Some colleagues mention that various states have struggled in data center consolidation. Still, this “boat” has now officially left the dock. Government IT executives need to embrace this critical opportunity.
In Michigan, we have seen huge benefits to the consolidation of data centers over the past decade. We have closed 37 datacenters and moved to three core data centers for daily operations. We also back each other up across a government-owned fiber infrastructure that connects buildings in Lansing area. We have used this success as a launching pad to wider IT consolidation efforts.
Utah is another state to look at regarding data center consolidation. They have an excellent technology management story to tell across all business areas, and their consolidated government portal has also won many awards.
In conclusion, you can see a nice executive summary on data center consolidation in the states from this Center for Digital Government Issue Brief. Another excellent summary is available from the federal General Account Office (GAO-11-565) which summarizes a number of government initiatives. The report is entitled: Data Center Consolidation: Agencies Need to Complete Inventories and Plans to Achieve Expected Savings.
The National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) sponsored a survey on data center consolidation back in 2007 which is still worth reviewing for context. You can download Survey on Enterprise Data Center Consolidation in the States: Strategies and Business Justification or visit a more recent overview from Deltek/Input which covers the same state/local consolidation topic in 2011. There are also plenty of other excellent technology-related research publications to review at the NASCIO website as well.
Data center consolidation has become the new normal across the globe. All governments have an opportunity to do more in this area. I urge readers to "get in the game," if they haven't done so already.
August 9, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
The Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) is holding its annual meeting in Nashville, TN, this week, and the focus is all about ways to strengthen partnerships. Indeed, the meetings are being held simultaneously with the GFIRST Annual Conference and the InfraGard National Congress to facilitate many joint meetings. At least 45 state governments, numerous local governments and many U.S. territories are represented at these MS-ISAC meetings, with most states having 2-3 representatives.
From the initial meeting overview and charge given by Will Pelgrin to the welcome messages Bobbie Stempfley, acting assistant secretary of the DHS Office of Cyber Security and Communications, the meetings highlighted the cyber risks and partnership examples. Even during the role call list and comments from the government representatives in the audience, the discussion topics kept coming back to ways that states and locals can work together with DHS and the MS-ISAC to improve information sharing, solve complex cyber problems and provide best practice solutions to members.
The meeting topics included break-out sessions for new members, services provided by the MS-ISAC, legal issues and legislation needed, security metrics and operations as well as other cyber issues. Each group reported out and described opportunities to work together and show value in their joint efforts. Afternoon breakout sessions included best-practice presentations from a variety of states.
Tuesday morning sessions were combined with the plenary sessions of the GFIRST conference, and the opening keynote was offered by DHS Acting Deputy Undersecretary NPPD Greg Schaffer. The Acting Undersecretary also discussed the many partnerships and changes over the past few years in the cyber activities within the federal and state governments. He described advancements in EINSTEIN, Trusted Internet Connections (TIC), Cyberstorm Exercises, The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), the important paper on a healthy cyber ecosystem and the International Strategy for Cyberspace. The address also discussed advances in awareness and training, and reminded the audience about current cybersecurity awareness month plans.
In each case, Mr. Schaffer emphasized the importance of partnerships. From the public sector working with the private sector to the local governments working with states and federal agencies, he highlighted the importance of a business perspective with measureable results. He challenged the audience that “gets it” to carry the message to CFOs and CEOs across America who need to act as well.
The opening keynote closed with highlights of upcoming cyber legislation which will:
- Clarify authorities
- Enhance penalties for cyber crime
- Add mandatory requirements for protecting critical infrastructure – with private sector buy-in into specifics
Bottom line, the entire set of cyber sessions that I attended over several days focused on new and stronger partnerships. I really like what Cheri McGuire from Symantec said in summary during an afternoon panel:
Partnership Goals include –
1) Managing Risk
2) Improving Resiliency
3) Collaboration and Coordination
It was great to see that message in action over the past several days. If your state is not involved, I urge you to engage in these essential discussions regarding cyber and critical infrastructure partnerships.
Any thoughts on the MS-ISAC meetings or GFIRST 2011?
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From federal stimulus projects to enterprise architectures to cloud computing, Dan Lohrmann will discuss what's hot and what's not in the world of technology infrastructure.