“In 10 years, what worked and what hasn’t, and can we structure this so that it will work better for the next number of years? I’d love to run everything under the cloud, but technically you can’t do that. Nobody has a solution that can support that, and even if they did, we start learning how they architect and implement these clouds, and guess what? It’s not something where I can just move something from one cloud to another — a piece of cake, very little cost to do that — because if it was, it would make the cloud a commodity, and that’s a much different game. I’m not saying it won’t ultimately move to that model, but right now there are things that lock you into a cloud and cost you some serious money to move from one area to another.”

The city’s agreement with Unisys is very comprehensive. “The PC that I use,” Doll said, “the servers that our applications run on, storage — you name it — it’s actually all leased by the city through Unisys. They do all of the operations, their guys support us from the desktop to the data center and they do a certain degree of networking.” Unisys also handles the service desk.

Doll’s staff handles telephones and some user-perspective administration of major systems like enterprise resource planning. Doll’s group does application development and maintains some older information systems built in house. “I have some architects, some contract specialists, system architects to data architects, we have our own project managers, I have my own security officer, interagency coordinator, a couple of networking guys but more at the architecture side.” Doll has 57 positions total for the whole IT organization. “We’re very close to having the entire IT shop outsourced.”

“If we’re going to do an RFP and be running come January 2016, we have to start it now,” Doll said.

New Methods Hit Old Restrictions

While strategic sourcing expands the spectrum of choices, some new options collide with restrictions based on old ways of doing things. Software as a service, for example, is obtained from the cloud by subscription. But while software purchase as a capital expenditure is a well traveled path, subscriptions are not. And governments attempting to share services that run on proprietary software encounter licensing restrictions. And since many governments perform similar functions, some are offering a government cloud approach to service delivery that public officials find more comfortable for critical applications or sensitive data. But government clouds encounter both subscription and licensing obstacles.

A year ago, Government Technology published an article about the need for more flexibility in software licenses, shared hosting, concurrent licensing, etc. Those discussions continue, with some signs of improvement. However, many CIOs we recently talked to continued to cite licensing issues as an impediment to options ranging from virtualization to shared services.

The issue resurfaced, for example, most recently at a meeting of CIOs in San Diego, hosted by Tuck. When asked if changes are needed in software licensing, Tuck said, “The answer is a resounding yes. In a shared service model, you would want to have an enterprise agreement for all the customers you are providing services to. In other words, a regional agreement. But how you get hardware and software vendors at the table willing to do that is the difficult question.”

In addition to the need for regional licensing agreements, there is confusion associated with sorting out the licensing legalese of this uncharted territory.

Oakland County, Mich., CIO Phil Bertolini, for example, is aggressively pushing the envelope and is afflicted with both licensing issues. Oakland County’s G2G Cloud Solutions could expand shared services beyond the county or even across the country. For applications developed in-house — such as the county’s online payments solution — county borders are not a problem, and subscribers can come from anywhere. But with anything that runs on proprietary software, he said, once outside county borders, the game changes, the rules are convoluted and the legal hurdles can bring things to a halt.

“Their licensing for governments today forces me into a box,” he said. “It says I can only provide the technologies for my county entities — my county departments and divisions. So if I’m providing certain things to my local governments, that could impact my licensing model. And a lot of us are doing that now.”

Understandably, vendors see governments providing services based on the vendors’ proprietary software as possible competitors. Bertolini said vendors categorize him as a service provider, and he understands their point of view, but he would like clarification on licensing agreements. A jurisdiction’s legal team can stop an initiative if the licensing agreement isn’t clearly spelled out. “It’s so convoluted on when you move from one license to another,” said Bertolini. “Is it an enterprise license? Is it a provider license? Then if I need one or the other, what do I have to do to procure that? And if I procure that, does it give me unlimited ability to provide? There are all these things that are up in the air.”

Wayne Hanson  | 

Wayne E. Hanson served as a writer and editor with e.Republic from 1989 to 2013, having worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and Digital Communities. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education.