of government, the need for security will never be higher. In addition, Poleto pointed out that today's consolidated data centers are able to meet federal rules that require encryption of mainframe data while it's transmitted across networks.

One possible outcome of all this consolidation in state and local government is the recentralization of agency applications. Not so long ago, most efforts at application development seemed to occur at department or agency level. But thanks to "enterprise computing," today's buzzwords in both the private and public sectors, the newly consolidated data center is seen as the best place for such enterprise applications to occur, according to technology experts such as the Gartner Group. Because of the difficulties of running applications outside the data center, many agency directors have a new respect for the glass house.

"The client/server environment no longer provides all the answers," Lightle said. "We will be bringing some large client/server systems into the data center. The emphasis in South Carolina is on the enterprise environment."

It's a Utility

If data-center consolidation is so beneficial, why has it taken so long to happen? Consolidation may be the stake in the heart of decentralized computing in state and local government, but it's going to take a lot of pounding to drive it in. Consolidation inevitably means the loss of autonomy or even elimination for smaller data centers, which can be hard for their directors to swallow.

"Every [data center] leader thinks they shouldn't be subject to consolidation," explained Gerry Wethington, director of the Information Services Division of Missouri's State Highway Patrol and chairman of the state's consolidation steering committee. "We had to work through a lot of turf issues. Everybody thought they were unique and shouldn't be consolidated. They couldn't get past the point that computing power is nothing more than a utility."

In the end, Wethington said, everybody came around and agreed that consolidation was in the best interests of the state. In South Carolina, the governor has been behind the effort to modernize and has pushed for enterprise computing, including consolidation, so turf issues were less of a problem.

Wethington believes that the hiring of a consultant helped to absorb the anger and resentment aimed at the consolidation effort. "I really believe that the biggest service they brought to the project was taking the brunt of the anger," he said. "That's a role for the consultant that goes beyond their field of specialty."

Another problem that has cropped up in consolidation projects is, ironically, unexpected costs. It turns out that independent software vendors penalize centers that purchase large-capacity mainframes. Historically, mainframe users paid for software based on the size of the system the application is running on. This pricing surcharge hadn't been a big issue until state and local governments began purchasing larger-capacity machines for the consolidated data centers.

South Carolina has expanded the MIPS rate in its central data center through consolidation from 25 to more than 300. According to Lightle, hardware costs actually dropped with the expansion, "but the independent software vendors are raising their prices."

Wethington concurred. "The independent vendors are not giving us a good price."

Fortunately, customer complaints are beginning to be heard. IBM recently sent a shot across the bow of the independents by altering what it charges for mainframe software. Recent changes of the mainframe manufacturer's pricing structures could lead to significant savings. Other vendors are beginning to follow suit.

To most data-center directors and CIOs, the software pricing issue is a mere bump in the road to consolidation. The benefits far outweigh any shortcomings, they say. South Carolina cites six key advantages: modernization, better management, more efficient use of resources,

technological compatibility, better security and financial rewards. Of all these benefits, Lightle said modernization is the key reason consolidation is so important today.

"We're expecting the use of our consolidated data center to grow in the coming years as demand for cross-agency solutions increases," he said. "Consolidation is one of the building blocks on which we will build our enterprise system for the state of South Carolina."

The same can be said for the rest of the consolidation efforts now under way.


Tod Newcombe is author of "Electronic Commerce: A Guide for Public Officials," published by Government Technology Press. Additional information is available online at or by contacting Lucinda McKevitt at 916/363- 5000 or via e-mail.

Tod Newcombe  |  Features Editor