Cloud services and colocation give city governments new options to save costs and improve IT. But experts say cities should proceed with eyes open -- and with lawyers on call.
Spurred by virtualization, whereby hardware or software resources are electronically expanded to serve multiple users, services are cropping up worldwide that enable municipal IT departments to increase the size and strength of their compute and storage resources. These services take the form of cloud offerings, where resources and applications can be accessed directly by the customer, or as colocation services, where compute, storage and networking gear are available for use at an offsite location.
That's a significant savings for most cities. "Cities can spend 80% less to colocate resources instead of building out their own data centers," said Mary Shacklett, president of IT consultancy Transworld Data, in a Future Cities live digital audio program, All About Data Center Colocation, Tuesday.
Constructing a data center from scratch can take more than two years, she noted, and most enterprises, including city governments coping with shifting conditions and tight budgets, require much more timely and agile solutions than that. In contrast, colocation offers the chance to quickly add a data center for remote services, disaster recovery or application failover.
There are caveats, however. Without due diligence and solid contracts, cities can wind up disappointed by services, or worse.