San Jose, Calif., Steps to the Cloud

CIO Vijay Sammeta says the city's investment in Microsoft cloud services isn't just another iteration of software, but an investment in a platform.

by / July 15, 2013
Fountain outside San Jose City Hall Flickr/Don Debold

The city of San Jose, Calif., is stopping its investment in several siloed platforms and stepping into the cloud, says CIO Vijay Sammeta.

The city will begin work immediately on a buildout of Microsoft Office 365 and Storsimple, with plans for project completion sometime early next year.

“I don’t want to manage technology anymore; I’d rather manage solutions, and I think moving my employees further up that service delivery stack is important," Sammeta said. "As we look to build a private cloud in the city, all these appliances and offerings are just pieces of that puzzle."

For Sammeta, the move to hosted services lets his team focus on better customer and community engagement -- activities which provide higher value. Spending resources managing technology isn’t of value anymore, he said, which is triggering broad adoption of cloud services in the public and private sectors.

The roughly $750,000 project will help the city move away from traditional storage and service offerings as it moves records management and workflow applications to the cloud. Being in the middle of Silicon Valley and having lots of bandwidth, this sort of move is a “no-brainer” these days, said Sammeta, pictured at left.

“We see beyond just buying a product, but investing in a platform,” he said. “I think the benefit to the residents and the businesses of San Jose is that we think as we begin to mature in our usage of Office 365, we’ll be able to decrease the cycle times as people engage government. Yes, it’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint, but it’s also a powerful platform underneath that we can change a lot of our business processes around to make a tangible difference.”

The city was attracted to Microsoft, Sammeta said, because of its product security and “intelligent auto-tiering capabilities.”

“There are a lot of concerns about security in the cloud these days, and they let us get all the benefits of the cloud in terms of economic elasticity and that kind of stuff, but we also get the benefit of keeping it secure by ensuring it gets AES encrypted and we get to keep the keys.”

Efficiency is at the heart of the company's efforts, he said, which is why auto-tiering was also an important factor in the city's decision to go with a Microsoft and Storsimple solution.

“We don’t treat all data the same,” he said. In the city’s new storage system, frequently accessed data gets put solid state drives (SSD), while older data is archived on SAS drives, and things that rarely get accessed are queued for storage on the cloud. “Until we move all documents to the cloud, we’re doing unstructured data storage, streamlining backups, snapshotting virtual machines and backing them up to the cloud,” he said. "So we’re using the full range of services Microsoft and azure have out there these days.”

This move is becoming common these days, Sammeta noted, and it’s part of a bigger movement toward efficiency and leaner organizations. Today, the city's IT department has 42 employees, but Sammeta said that when he joined the city, it had about 142 employees.

“We’re not efficient when we do that,” he said. “[Now] we’re aligning ourselves with the changes in the marketplace where there’s a lot of competition, and taking advantage of that.”

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.

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