City IT is moving cloudward but it's not fairytale perfect. Migrations are happening in stages, amid many questions and usually with input from several partner providers.
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If you believe the hype, cities are ditching their data centers and moving en masse to public cloud services.
In this pleasant scenario, one that is frequently accompanied by fulsome, if very generalized, statistics on cloud ROI, city budgets are rescued, taxpayers get intriguing new services, and one supplier emerges as the star of the show.
The reality is more complicated. City IT is indeed moving cloudward, but the migration is happening in stages, amid many questions, and usually with input from several partner providers.
In Seattle, for instance, Microsoft boasts of the municipal government migrating its services to Office 365 applications. But former city CIO Bill Schrier says that's only part of what the city is doing with IT. "I would not characterize Microsoft as the 'main vendor' in the 'Seattle municipal cloud,'" he wrote in an email to me this week. "The City has dozens -- really hundreds -- of applications running on internal services and in an internal data center. It also has dozens of SaaS apps such as NeoGov for job applications. Certainly the Office365/Exchange implementation -- when it occurs in 2014 -- will be the largest cloud app, but most mission-critical apps will still run internally."
In New York, IBM announced early in 2011 that the city would pay roughly $10 million to consolidate multi-agency IT over a five-year period. But IBM does not act as a cloud service provider in its own right, instead offering the underlying technology for multiple providers. Maybe this is why no mention of IBM was made in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's official consolidation plan a couple of years ago. New York's IT infrastructure consolidation appears on track for completion by June 2014.
Then there is San Francisco's move to Microsoft 365 email. Initiated in 2011, the project was touted as a big win for Microsoft. Computerworld reported that the city would pay $1.2 million a year for the service, which was mandated to produce a 20% budget reduction.
Two years later, it's clear that email migration is just one aspect of a huge, complicated IT complex for the city. Moving it to the cloud hasn't been as speedy as planned, either. Jon Walton, the San Francisco city CIO who originated the project, told the San Francisco Chronicle in January 2013 that the email migration wasn't finished. "I'd like to have stayed to see that one wrapped up," he said, referring to his departure to become San Mateo (California) county CIO.