The idea of planning and executing the wholesale modernization of an agency’s IT infrastructure is, without a doubt, daunting. But according to Tony Encinias, former CIO of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it doesn’t need to be that way for either local, state, or federal IT leaders. “First off, it’s prohibitively expensive to undertake a large-scale modernization effort all at once,” said Encinias who is now Vice President of Technology at ViON. “To deliver success CIOs need to build a strategy that envisions the whole plan but allows each stage to be broken out as a building block.”
“For example, while a CIO might want to move their agency to a hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) that’s a total, radical change,” said Encinias. “Instead, the prudent way to get to HCI is to start by identifying what you need to move to the cloud and then ‘dipping your toes in the water’ with moving appropriate apps, data, and workloads to the public cloud. This enables government CIOs to refine the strategy and then realize the benefits of the cloud while still having control.”
While the cloud is certainly a fundamental element of IT modernization strategy, it’s not been the panacea many though that it would be. “One of the biggest virtues of a cloud-based strategy is meant to be the cost savings,” shared Encinias. “However, many CIOs have fallen victim to vendor lock-in, or contracts that have resulted in them paying for storage and/or compute that they will never use.”
To avoid these missteps Encinias encourages CIOs, to think about cloud as an ‘as-a-Service’ consumption-based financial model. “Upending the procurement model is really the ‘easy button’ when it comes to IT modernization,” said Encinias. “State and local governments, in particular, don’t need to be buying enterprise-level services, nor do the need to be locked into long-term contracts; they very nature of the cloud should enable agencies to scale their requirements up or down on demand without financial penalties.”
For many agencies consumption of storage and compute requirements is cyclical. Consider the extra demands placed on agencies during tax season, or during the winter months when unemployment claims increase and requires a concomitant increase to process these claims.
“Our ability to predict how much storage or compute capacity we’ll require at any point in time is pretty bad,” said Encinias. “Most folks tend to over-provision to avoid add-on charges, but in following those traditional strategies they wind up over provisioning and paying far too much. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be able to scale up and scale down in an instant and buy the capacity they need, when they need it as-a-service and not pay for the service until it is used.”
In the end, modernization isn’t just about replacing technology; it’s about a fundamental shift in perspective. While no part of IT modernization will ever be described as simple, by changing the process as much as technology, things do get a little easier. It’s plain to see that by thinking differently about procurement, government CIOs and IT leaders can not only avoid expensive capital investments but also eliminate unanticipated expenses and waste and accelerate their modernization initiatives.