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Oklahoma Puts Security, Efficiency at Heart of Data Center Revamp

Through a partnership with Dell Technologies, the state has upgraded its primary data center, invested in a second center to create a digital backup of its current system and migrated a staggering 2.6 petabytes of data.

Oklahoma State Capitol
Shutterstock/Timofeev Vladimir
To protect citizen data and safeguard against cyber attacks, the state of Oklahoma has partnered with Dell Technologies to reimagine its data center infrastructure.

The process started last summer after government officials realized the state’s data processes and digitized services needed updating as government employees transitioned to a telework environment because of the pandemic.

“We modernized our data center strategy by upgrading our primary data center here in Oklahoma City,” said Aleta Seaman, the state’s senior director of IT operations. “We invested in a secondary center to create a digital backup of our current system.”

During this process, the state migrated 2.6 petabytes of data and implemented safeguards to protect that data during weather and power outages. The upgrade also consolidated more than 3,000 servers and 9,000 databases that support more than 100 state agencies.

“Previously, if systems went offline, it would have taken months or years to restore the state’s data,” Seaman said. “Now, the state has a recovery site that minimizes downtime and data recovery loss to agencies and citizens.”

“One of the biggest benefits, because we now have the disaster recovery site, is being able to sleep at night knowing that our data is protected and well secured in both locations,” Seaman added. “We also saw increases in throughput for our agencies and our applications, which certainly helped the whole work environment.”

The state used a portion of CARES Act funds to finance the technology modernization project, which also posed its own challenges, Seaman said. The short six-month time frame of implementing these upgrades combined with the tight restrictions associated with the use of CARES funding was difficult but did not significantly impact the overall implementation.

Once the state’s data centers were upgraded, Dell and VMware provided training for employees to learn the new systems.

“Working together, we have created a digital approach to offering services and a top-tier, well-engineered secondary data center to help ensure our citizen data is protected, even in the face of cyber attacks, inclement weather and power outages,” Steven Harpe, state chief operating officer and deputy secretary of digital transformation and administration, said in a release.

Outside of Oklahoma, other states seem to be moving in a similar direction, especially when it comes to cybersecurity, said Jillian Mansolf, the senior vice president and general manager of U.S. corporate, education and public-sector sales at Dell Technologies.

“There are cyber attacks now every 11 seconds,” Mansolf said. “I think there’s a need for more digital and mobile services, which is being prevented by lack of tools.”

Another topic Mansolf addressed is automation. In state government, the ability to provide increasingly more accessible services has become a high priority for agencies and is often aided by new technologies like machine learning or process automation.

“People need automation processes to modernize and integrate data across different departments or agencies,” she said. “I would say in general the need to transform, to be more modern and more resilient, but still be able to offer services for each department and each state agency is the challenge.”
Katya Diaz is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.