April 30, 2010 By Matt Williams
some kind. It dawned on me that I needed to find out what the alternative was before making that decision because we had just upgraded storage on other systems and we have a large, diverse shop. [In the past] I was thinking the solution was to buy more hardware for storage. So I said to my manager, "What does the cloud look like as far as storage? Why don't you call the vendors out there who are promising they can back up our systems in the cloud and find out if there's a real solution there." He went down that road and he's aggressively trying to figure out if there's a better a way to store data than what we're doing now.
So instead of spending $300,000, would we be better served finding a storage provider in the cloud and pushing our stuff out? We haven't decided if we're going to go that route because it's still early, but that's the kind of mentality we're in right now as far what applications stay in-house and what applications go into the cloud. Since we've had such a successful experience moving our e-mail into the cloud, we're always looking for that next app we can move there.
I remember what it was like, because I've been here long enough. [Editor's Note -- Cross has worked for Orlando for 23 years and served as CIO since 1999.] I remember when we migrated to Lotus Notes. It' funny -- when we actually decided to go with Google and it was approved by [City] Council -- I had decided to clean out my desk drawer. I happened to come across some yellow sticky notes, and it was the way we'd voted 10 years previously when deciding between Exchange and Lotus Notes. They had the names of people involved in the process who voted yes or no. I think "Notes" won by two votes. And here we are 10 years later, doing the same thing. It's déjà vu.
But in a perfect world, would you prefer you had all the city's data, storage and servers on-premise?
Even if we weren't in the budget situation we're in now, I think we're at a point in our computing history that I'm questioning whether the way we did IT traditionally -- that everything is in-house -- would still be the best way of doing it. The technology is changing on us so fast that it's hard to keep staff trained. There's so much happening out there in terms of technology that we just can't keep up anymore, and we're finding there are specialized companies that, because of scalability and other cost factors, can do it much more efficiently and less expensively than we can do it. Even if money was no object, I think I would have to evaluate -- is cloud computing not the best way to go? Or is it something I need to do just because I can do it myself?
It's a question that I'm sure other governments are also asking. Is it your sense that peers are in a wait-and-see mode?
Yes and no. I have been bombarded with calls from my peers and private-sector companies about the move. I have a notebook on my desk, and when I get a call, I write the person's municipality or government agency. When I talk to each of these people, the question I get most is, "Did you really realize the savings that we saw?" and "How did you do it?" Everybody wants to know how, if they had the opportunity, how they should go about doing it themselves. They're calling me, hoping I can give them that magic bullet -- this is how you convince your [government] this is how it should be done.
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