State of Alaska Data Center Consolidation. Data, Information and Knowledge Management. Corey Kos, State of Alaska

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1 State of Alaska Data Center Consolidation Data, Information and Knowledge Management Corey Kos, State of Alaska Project Implementation March 2011 September 2011

2 Executive Summary Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area; however it is the least densely populated. Approximately half of Alaska's 722,718 residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Despite its smaller population, the state requires a large information technology (IT) infrastructure to ensure all areas are connected. Due to technology inefficiencies and disparate facility locations, Alaska s systems were taking many months sometimes years to get started, resulting in a delay in services to its citizens. In November 2010, Corey Kos became Alaska s enterprise architect, and one of his first actions was to evaluate the state s IT systems and programs. His initial assessment was that the infrastructure was surprisingly siloed and the model of delivering IT resources facilitated this separation. We would have projects come on board and buy hardware, and then buy more hardware for the next project. We were lacking an efficient use of resources, says Kos. The biggest challenge was the time to deliver services. We had hardware which needed to be altered and stood up, but we could not get everything ready to deliver services at the rate end-users needed it. Additional challenges facing the state included different departmental standards and procedures, overall operational inefficiencies and lack of unity in data center teams. Kos experience with virtualization played a critical role in the way he approached Alaska s IT challenges. He looked at virtualization as a start, but believed that the IT team needed something more to become a true enterprise provider for the state. To tackle these various challenges, the State of Alaska needed to decrease the time to deliver services. This was critical to their objective to increase operational efficiencies and enable Alaska employees to meet their mission goals. In addition, the State of Alaska s IT Department needed to increase operational efficiencies across the board.

3 Business Problem and Solution Description Problem Statement The State of Alaska was facing critical challenges that were impeding its ability to function as efficiently as possible and deliver services to the citizens of Alaska. Specifically, it faced: delays in delivering information technology services to end-users, different departmental standards and procedures, and overall operational inefficiencies and lack of unified teams within data center. To tackle these challenges the State of Alaska undertook a massive project to update the data center platform in order to more quickly provide services, as well as deploy a Unified Computing System to simplify data center operations and support cloud computing. Solution Description To begin implementation of a new statewide data center and private cloud, the State of Alaska s IT Department conducted independent research and analyzed how different architectures work together. The state ultimately decided that integrating two cuttingedge technologies--cisco UCS and FlexPod--were the best options to tackle their challenges. With a Cisco Wide Area Network (WAN) in place, the state was able to better leverage UCS to provide unified service delivery for all applications to end-users. This end-to-end Cisco network ensures that the data and applications running on the network and through the data center are secure. As a converged data center platform, UCS controls multiple chassis and thousands of virtual machines, thus increasing employee capabilities and reducing the complexity of highly-virtualized environments. The state needed technology that would permit greater agility and scale for operations. The UCS data center platform accelerates and simplifies application deployment with greater reliability and security, integrating server and network resources into a single, converged system. This enhancement means greater agility and an increased scale for server operations. Cisco and NetApp collaborated to create FlexPod, a prevalidated data center solution built on a flexible, shared infrastructure. This predesigned base configuration easily scales, is optimized for a variety of mixed application workloads and be configured for virtual desktop or server infrastructure, secure multi-tenancy, or cloud environments.

4 Significance of the Project Some of the growing pains of the State of Alaska s Data Center Consolidation include adjusting for differences in best practices between the older, traditional way of executing IT, versus the new platform. The main aspect of this was driving infrastructure and system deployment from a holistic infrastructure standpoint versus different application owners. Historically, application owners were used to specifying requirements of siloed needs, for example: I need 10 spindles of storage to meet my needs. When working on a consolidated architecture, the State of Alaska IT Department had to adjust their thinking in terms of performance and capacity management as a whole. Overall, the key aspect of the state s new technology platform is the ability to easily adjust to growing performance needs. The learning curve is paying off: Recently, the state of Alaska had an enterprise Oracle database server that had out grown its storage performance. With the new technology system in place, the IT team was able to quickly migrate it to higher performance storage and correct the issue; in the past this would have required a complete tear-down and rebuild of the database system, thus the new infrastructure saved time and money for the State. The State of Alaska Data Center Consolidation is arguably the single most influential project that has taken place for the State s IT Department in recent years. The new architecture has been like a high performance machine that has enabled large, complex systems to be deployed quickly, thereby creating efficiencies in the State s service delivery. Impressively, while Kos and his team had budgeted $5 million for the three data centers, the project was completed successfully at $3.2 million. In addition, the project was successfully deployed in 6 months meeting the team s deadline with ease.

5 Key Benefits and Advancements Benefits of the Project Before the new technology was implemented, Kos comments on the difficulties of managing the hardware: From the time we specked the hardware and it was in production it was three to six months. Now, the State of Alaska can bring two servers a day online and currently has more than 200 servers deployed. According to Kos, the fact that they can deploy two or more servers per day is amazing compared to the prior benchmark. Before deploying Cisco UCS, the state offered classic hosting services to customers without great interest. However, the new platform opened up a new tiered model of services the state can offer. Departments, agencies and/or organizations can now customize how they leverage services across the state. The IT Department can provide the customer with a virtual machine which they can manage or the IT team can manage the virtual environment. There are now endless possibilities for customers where the state s IT team can be as involved as they want. We are seeing significant cost savings in the hardware and data center space. What our customers are seeing is that the wide variety of options provides them with a new level of comfort in the platform. As a result there has been a large increase in the number of customers coming to us for hosting services. We were also able to drop the rate for services by nearly 50 percent. I expect that this number will continue to decrease as we increase the number of groups sharing the platform, says Kos. Another key goal for the State of Alaska s IT Department Data Center Consolidation project was to increase operational efficiencies across the board. Originally the IT Department was extremely siloed by focus, department and agency. By deploying Cisco UCS, the department has been streamlined, making for a more efficient team. Team members were cross-trained so they can work on all aspects of the IT infrastructure, no longer focusing on one particular area, thereby enhancing communication and creating a cohesive team. Innovation The integration of the FlexPod allowed the State of Alaska to offer competitive services to its customers. Specifically, the technology integrated through the Data Center Consolidation project allowed the state to tailor its offering of hosting services to its customers individual business needs, allowing them the freedom of infrastructure as a service or the autonomy of a shared utility compute model. In state government, the ability for departments to work together while retaining controls pertinent to their business is key; the FlexPod service allowed the customers to choose what was best for them, contributing to the overall success of the state government. The State of Alaska provides separation at the network, compute, and storage layers as driven by the state of Alaska s customers business needs. The new technology, i.e.

6 storage virtualization, allows the state of Alaska to onboard tenants in a manner that meets their business drivers for security. Additional services such as vshield firewall services will increase the state of Alaska s security level by giving them granular control over firewall rules at the virtual data center or virtual machine levels. Moving Forward The design of the entire IT project has, at its core, a methodology of scalability and repeatability. The technical architecture in place can be leveraged across the government to improve department partnerships. This project design is thus absolutely applicable to other government entities looking to create efficiencies within their own sector.!

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