What’s Next for Government Data Centers?

Public CIOs are deciding what to keep in-house and what to place in the cloud.

by / June 10, 2015

Inside this issue of Public CIO, you’ll find our latest special report, The Definitive Guide to Data Centers. Its timing couldn’t be better, given the rapid and pervasive changes taking place in government data center facilities.

Public CIOs are evaluating their data center operations against a growing array of options, and they’re rewriting the rules for what’s done inside and outside the walls of traditional government computing facilities. The shift was on display at the NASCIO Midyear Conference in April. Over the course of the meeting, we asked nearly a dozen state CIOs how the cloud will impact their core operations, and all of them said they’re using the cloud, or cloud-like concepts, to transform what they do.

Some of them, like Kentucky’s Jim Fowler, intend to move the bulk of traditional data center infrastructure to hosted platforms. “I’m a strong proponent that government will be out of the infrastructure business. We can’t afford it,” he said. “In the next five to seven years, I suspect that 80-plus percent of our infrastructure will be off our premises and in the cloud somewhere.”

States aren’t only deploying new cloud services, they’re finding new ways to manage cloud contractors. In March, for instance, Georgia hired integrator Capgemini to oversee its growing services portfolio. The company will track day-to-day activities of cloud contractors and provide a performance dashboard for managers at the Georgia Technology Authority.

But not everything is going to the cloud. Public CIOs acknowledge that some systems will remain in-house for the foreseeable future. Those operations are being transformed too.

Ohio is consolidating agency data centers into a central computing facility and creating a private cloud that’s run jointly by government employees and IBM. As state employees retire or transfer to new jobs, the company will assume greater responsibility for running these services.

North Carolina CIO Chris Estes wants to seamlessly combine in-house and cloud-based platforms to rapidly scale up computing capacity to handle events like tax season or Election Day. And in Colorado — where the state has made significant investments in public cloud platforms like Google and Salesforce — the Governor’s Office of Information Technology also is making sure its private cloud offerings act like true on-demand, consumption-based services.

“If we’re going to do cloud, we need to provide our customers with flexible architectures that are elastic, very cost-efficient and cost-predictive,” said Colorado CTO David McCurdy. “I think that gets lost in the conversation a lot.”

All of this is a conversation that’s sure to continue as public CIOs plot the future of the government data center. And we offer our new report to help further the discussion.

Steve Towns

Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.