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California Announces Private Cloud Offering for 2014

The California Office of Technology Services' privately-run cloud service will be another lower-cost method of delivering IT services to its customers.

On June 27, the California Office of Technology Services (OTech) announced that it's looking for a vendor for its first private cloud services offering. The agency is prepared to accept vendor bids until August 26, and services of this private cloud are expected to be available to OTech’s customers by January 2014.

The vendor, which will be selected by the beginning of October, will build a turnkey system inside the state’s two data centers. The vendor will manage the hardware, while the state manages its services, allowing cost savings, scalability and flexibility for OTech, its customers and all Californians, said OTech Director Ron Hughes.

The state doesn’t have the expertise or the experience to manage a private cloud on its own, Hughes said, but still wanted to offer cloud services to its customers because it’s what the customers want. Building cloud hardware inside the agency's own private data center was the best solution for the state, given its need for a cloud offering and the short timeframe, Hughes said.

“The reason we did that is it avoids a lot of the issues our customers would potentially have with cloud services when you don’t have control of the data, you don’t know where the data is located," he said. "Everybody’s concerned you could have a data loss. By having a private cloud located on our raised floor, you avoid all those issues."

Whichever vendor is chosen will also be required by the five-year contract to teach the state how to operate its cloud hardware. That way, Hughes said, OTech will have the option to completely manage its own cloud when it upgrades in five years -- a route the state will likely take.

The initial cost to the state is zero, because the cloud services will be offered on a provisioning-based contract. And that, Hughes said, is one of the great things about the cloud, and got OTech's customers interested in buying cloud services in the first place.

“When I was appointed director, the first thing I did was I went out and talked to all of my customers,” he said. “The number one thing our customers were asking for was cloud services. They want the ability to use provisioning-based contracts for delivering IT services. It allows customers to control their own resources.”

OTech’s customers want control, he said, and this will allow them to have it.

While the servers are often under-utilized, the agency’s customers will only have to pay for what they need and can scale their usage.

“It gives a lot of control back to our customers they haven’t had before,” Hughes said, adding that in addition to cost-savings, flexibility and scalability, this solution will also offer better security and disaster recovery services.

“For us, it gives us an opportunity to implement best practices, have much more standardized environments for our customers,” Hughes said, the advantage of which is that it’s cheaper for OTech to provide support.

"Every time we lower the rates at OTech, we actually save the state money in terms of IT services," he added. "We’ve had multi-million rate cuts every year, many times twice a year. This will be another lower-cost method of delivering IT services to our customers, and should be significantly cheaper than the way we deliver those services today.”

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