Texas Puts IBM on Notice for Data-Backup Deficiencies

The Texas Department of Information Resources gives IBM 30 days to solve backup shortcomings after Gov. Rick Perry expressed concern about data center consolidation.

by / November 7, 2008

Photo: Texas CTO Brian Rawson

The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) sent a "notice to cure" this week to IBM, the vendor in charge of the state's data center services contract, a week after Gov. Rick Perry ordered a stop to consolidation efforts because of concerns about data backup.

IBM must remedy the identified shortcomings within 30 days, according to a press release from the DIR on Nov. 7, 2008. Further consolidation work is suspended until then.

"DIR and the state remain committed to the consolidation effort under the state data center services contract," said Brian Rawson, chief technology officer of Texas, in the press release. "Requiring this corrective action will ensure that the terms of the agreement are met so we can move forward with maximizing the efficiency of the state's resources and taxpayer dollars."

Rawson wrote in a letter to IBM Nov. 4 that critical state data was at risk because IBM hadn't yet implemented a remediation plan that DIR requested in August 2008.

IBM responded in kind with a statement of its own, saying it will continue to work with DIR to address the state's backup and recovery issues, and ensure the state's data security.

"The state's information technology operations have steadily improved since IBM began the data center project last year, and taxpayers already are seeing anticipated cost savings," according to IBM. "The state's data center infrastructure is more stable and secure now and we plan to work with DIR to continue to improve the system to better serve the state's citizens. We will respond to the [notice to cure] letter in due course."

In a correspondence to Rawson sent Oct. 28, Perry directed the DIR to stop all consolidation, pending a review. "I am concerned that the agency has failed to implement a system of checks and balances that ensures data security, jeopardizing the ability of state agencies to deliver services to their constituencies," Perry wrote. Perry said he was particularly concerned about IBM's "apparent failure" to back up data for more than 20 state agencies.

Robin MacEwan, chief of staff to Texas Rep. Carl Isett, who helped pass legislation in 2005 mandating the consolidation, told Government Technology last week that outsourcing is still the right option for data centers.

"With any huge project, you're going to see hiccups and bumps along the way, things that need to be worked out," MacEwan said, adding that the project's difficulties could have just as easily happened if the state consolidated the data centers itself. She also praised the DIR for withholding $900,000 for server backup time frame targets.

According to the DIR, the consolidation is expected to save taxpayers $178 million over the seven and a half years of the contract. IBM leads Team for Texas, a group of companies that was awarded an $863 million contract in 2006 to consolidate and operate state data centers.

Matt Williams Contributing Writer

Matt Williams was previously the news editor of Govtech.com, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines. He also previously served as the managing editor of TechWire, a sister publication to Government Technology.2

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