New York, the nation's third most populous state, has over 120,000 state employees spread across more than three dozen agencies. These agencies all run their own IT operations, but that is all going to change and for good reason.
Over the years, the state gained 50 data centers and no coherent IT practices. Agencies moved their IT at different paces. Some agencies had video conference capabilities, while others were still using tape backups. Email systems were a combination of GroupWise, Notes, Exchange and others.
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The experience wasn't uniform and collaboration was hindered. There was no single IT budget.
Nine months ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo created a new agency, the Office of Information Technology Services (OITS). As part of that action, more than 3,300 IT professionals from 37 agencies were transferred to the new agency. Brian Digman was appointed CIO to oversee all of it. He's been busy.
The state recently announced plans to consolidate its 50 data centers to two, and expects to finish this work by early 2015, after construction of one of the new data centers is completed.
This week, the state announced that it was moving all of its employees to Office 365 by the end of this year.
From the migration to Office 365, the state expects to save about $3 million in annual recurring costs, but just as important, if not more so, will be productivity benefits, such as having an address book for all state employees and the ability to collaborate across departments.
Problems with email services became apparent during Hurricane Sandy, when some state agencies lost access to email because of power outages and no redundancies.
The approach that OITS is taking is not new. States, including the federal government, are consolidating data centers for similar reasons. Governments are past the early adoption of cloud-based productivity tools, having turned in significant numbers to Google's and Microsoft's cloud-based productivity and messaging offerings.
Along with email, New York is centralizing management of applications and networks. "All of that is consolidated now into one central provider," Digman said.
The Office 365 adoption is the first step in moving other services to the public cloud, Digman said. No decisions have been made on what services might fit into public cloud environments and but decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. The internal IT architecture will be a private cloud, he said.
Digman, for now, sees nothing but possibilities. When asked if there are services that he would "never" move to a cloud. He paused, and said that "the word 'never' is what I'm reacting to." Anything is possible, except, perhaps, the most sensitive information.
Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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This story, "Empire state ends IT empire building" was originally published by Computerworld.