CIO Adrian Farley Details California DOJ’s Cloud Evolution and Lessons Learned

DOJ is moving an increasing number of its business applications into the cloud, becoming both a service provider and a major cloud customer.

by Matt Williams / July 25, 2014
CIO Adrian Farley Jessica Mulholland

The California Department of Justice is moving an increasing number of its business applications into the cloud, and in the process has positioned itself as both a service provider to other state and local agencies and a major customer for companies in the cloud space.

California DOJ’s Adrian Farley detailed those ongoing efforts at a Tuesday event called “X-as-a-Service” in Sacramento (hosted by TechWire parent company e.Republic). DOJ’s move to the cloud was more an evolution than anything else, and it began in earnest in 2010 and continues forward today, Farley told his colleagues in state government and industry officials in attendance.
“Because if you think about the theory of evolution, it’s really about adaptation — and in the environment that we’re operating in, the dynamics of the situation require agility, and that’s never been more important than it is today,” Farley said.
During the two years before he arrived at DOJ in 2012, Farley said the department focused on moving away from the mainframe and investing heavily in virtualization technology and open systems. The last two years have been centered on articulating a “virtual first” posture for DOJ business applications that can be moved safely into the cloud while still complying with the FBI’s stringent security policies.
These migrations and modernizations include DOJ’s enterprise mobility platform, JusticeMobile, which Farley said outside state agencies are now using as a service.
Last year DOJ stood up a new system that electronically captures all transactional data for all pawn shops and second-hand dealers in California. Previously that information was taken down on paper and stored for a minimum of three years in filing cabinets; now law enforcement is able to reconcile the records with stolen property databases.
“Really for the first time ever we have a comprehensive way for making sure that stolen property is actually not being sold in pawn and second-hand stores,” Farley said.
DOJ also is utilizing service from the private sector in order to improve the department’s disaster recovery capabilities. Last year when DOJ launched its modernized system for sales data from gun dealers and that system in-house – it previously was a managed service contract – the department worked with Amazon to set up a “warm site” for disaster recovery.
So how did this cloud evolution begin at DOJ?
“Well, it gets back to a conversation we as technologists and our business partners and our vendor partners in California have been having the last five or six years, which is really the power and value of technology is not on the number of servers or switches or gigabytes or terabytes of storage that you have. It’s having a seat at the table with business leaders,” Farley said.
He offered some of DOJ’s lessons learned for those on the same path:
1. Focus on a few key areas where you can deliver capability that gets your customers excited.
2. It’s necessary to understand the business context — including all the forms, data norms and security needs – when migrating an application to the cloud.
3. It’s important to be a good consumer when moving to the cloud, and that means asking tough questions about Service Level Agreements and making sure those SLAs and expectations are clear in the contracts. “It’s not so there’s an expectation of failure, but there’s a standard for success,” Farley explained.
4. Farley learned that focusing on the skillsets of the people who work for you is critical “because architecture and security have never been more important than they are now.”
5. Start small and learn lessons where you can. Conversely, fail and make mistakes on a small scale before spending millions of dollars. “Don’t build for peak, if you will, because that’s just bringing the legacy mindset of traditional computing with you to the cloud,” Farley advised. “You can scale as you need to, so build your applications such that they scale in a way that is linear to the extent that you can.”
This story was originally published by TechWire