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Microsoft Cloud Exec Is New Washington State CIO

Windows Azure vet Bharat Shiyam steps into the middle of a major state agency consolidation and a massive data center build as Washington's new state CIO.

The state of Washington has hired a former Microsoft cloud computing executive as its new CIO, the state announced Monday.

Microsoft vet Bharat Shyam steps into a role that's been accompanied by some major changes of late, as part of an effort to consolidate five major state agencies into three. In spite of the broader consolidation, IT functions are now spread across the three new agencies: the Department of Enterprise Services, Consolidated Technology Services, and the Office of Financial Management, where the CIO will reside.

At Microsoft, Shyam was most recently a general manager for Windows Azure, Microsoft's platform-as-a-service offering. In that role, he led strategic and engineering planning, and developer and IT-facing functionality for Azure. This will be his first CIO position.

Former state CIO Tony Tortorice left the role in October 2010 after only 15 months on the job, and there has not been a full-time CIO since. Tortorice had been working to push through a shared services initiative, and the state is working to consolidate several data centers into a $255 million office building and data center complex that will also double as the state information services division's headquarters.

[Cutting costs to manage shrinking budgets remains a chief concern for top IT officials. See State CIOs Eye Consolidation, Cloud, Mobility.]

After the data center build was announced, state legislatures questioned its expense, pointing out that cloud computing services from tech vendors, including in-state companies such as Microsoft and Amazon, could potentially be cheaper than consolidating everything into a brand new data center.

Earlier this year, The Olympian, the state capital's newspaper, reported that space in the new data center would cost agencies 17% more than comparable space based on a market study, and that consultants had found that the state might only need 10% of the 50,000 square feet initially allocated for data center space.

The planned move, originally scheduled to be completed by late fall 2011, will now not take place until next year, according to reports. In September, a power surge took the state's internal network offline for several hours, costing the state government an estimated $500,000.

Shyam had been with Microsoft for 18 years. In addition to his cloud computing positions, since starting with the company in 1983, Shyam had worked on Internet Explorer, Windows and Windows CE, Microsoft's never-launched NetDocs hosted productivity suite, and a commerce platform for Microsoft's online services.

Before joining Microsoft, Shyam received his master's degree in computer science at Stanford University. Shiyam is not the first Microsoft-connected person to be Washington's CIO. In 2004, then-CIO Stuart McKee left for a job with Microsoft's public sector group, where he remains to this day as Microsoft state and local government CTO.

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