California CIO Clark Kelso kicked off GTC West 2005 yesterday at the Sheraton Hotel in Sacramento, with the C-Level Summit of state chief executive, information, finance and security officers. The half-day session addressed some of the major issues facing state government today, including the California Performance Review, IT consolidation, budget pressures and more.

Nick Dedier, (L) Director and CIO of the California Justice Information Services Division of the California Department of Justice, received the 2005 Award for Innovation and Vision in Government from California State CIO Clark Kelso (R).

State and Consumer Services Agency Secretary, Fred Aguiar discussed procurement reforms under way in the state. The new strategic sourcing initiative, he said, will impact about 40 percent of state purchases and is projected to save about $50 million over the next few years.

The governor wants to reform the procurement process, said Aguiar, to make it more open, competitive and transparent.

In consumer affairs, Aguiar is trying to establish a uniform online licensing interface, a useful tool to licensees from different professions. The agencies are the experts in their own business, said Aguiar, "we seek to give them an infrastructure that makes sense, so they can better serve their clients."

Data center consolidation is part of the plan to leverage technology, reduce spending and maximize resources. The consolidation plan is before the Little Hoover Commission, he said, and the next step is legislation.

Carl Claunch, a Gartner vice president, spoke on trends, saying that there is broad dissatisfaction with the status quo among almost everyone that operates IT today. There is frustration in the physical limitations of the equipment, the storage and server boxes, he said. Jobs too large must be moved to larger boxes, and if a box is designed for a bigger job than is being run on it, it wastes money. Tax systems, for example, must be designed for peak loads that occur only once a year. Millions of dollars of equipment operating at only 30 percent capacity is a big liability.

Claunch outlined virtualization and consolidation as some promising trends. Technology itself monitors and adjusts the workload on servers, and relieves some of the rigidity of boxes. With virtualization, you separate the user from the resource, and are not limited by the characteristics of the physical resources. You don't have to move work manually. Servers can have hardware or software partitions; and the user can shift the resources between the partitions as needed. Storage virtualization minimizes the effects of disk drive boundaries. In a typical budget, said Claunch, normal operations involve 75 percent of the budget for running and maintaining existing systems, leaving only 25 percent on innovations. If you can cut back on the existing systems, then you can innovate. Consolidation is an obvious place to look to reduce costs and redundancy.

While Claunch said that consolidation is happening everywhere, he gave a few warnings. While reduction of excess staff is often given as a reason to consolidate, in actual practice, only about 25 percent reduce staff. The rest redeploy them. Also, when you reduce the number of servers and put several things on each, there are some potential trouble spots. In a shared facility, priorities may be assigned by others, service may not be as good, and questions of fair pricing may arise. In addition, Claunch suggested that software licensing fees may rise when the same work is combined on a bigger box. Claunch said that new technology is enabling cross-box virtualization. Virtual Iron, for example, can make three Intel servers look like one big one. The user can move work on the fly from one server to another.

Is Change Possible in Government? In a rather upbeat look at change 65 percent of the audience -- responding on wireless polling devices -- said real transformation is possible in government. Carlos Ramos, chief deputy director of the California Department of Child Support Services, said that while in the past, "some changes we didn't choose, but this is one that we are choosing ourselves. Lots of folks thought data center consolidation was a good idea. We have an opportunity to do something."

The C-Level Summit was sponsored by Accenture, EMC2, Gartner, Intel Solution Services, MCI, SBC and Veritas. Classes continue today, with the first keynote Wednesday morning.

Wayne Hanson  |  Editor