IT Science Case Study: Helping the Sheriff Get the Job Done

The County of San Mateo’s aging server infrastructure and lack of physical space made it difficult to support operations and take on new IT projects. Here’s how it handled the problem.

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This is the latest article in a new feature series in eWEEK called IT Science, in which we look at what really happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles will describe industry solutions only and won’t focus on any single product. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them will be success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic:  Helping the Sheriff’s Department Do Their Jobs More Efficiently

This IT Science article was put together using firsthand information from Jon Walton, CIO of the County of San Mateo in Northern California.

Name the problem to be solved: The County of San Mateo’s (San Francisco Bay Area) aging server infrastructure and lack of physical space made it difficult to support operations and take on new IT projects. The organization needed to quickly expand its storage capabilities as its customer needs were growing. Its legacy IT environment consisted of a broad mix of infrastructure solutions all designed for specific projects, and as such there was no way to easily scale them up or out to support the new projects and solutions the organization wanted to implement. The traditional three-tier infrastructure required constant tweaking to keep it operational and therefore was creating a road block to rolling out new projects and applications.  

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution: San Mateo County’s aging storage and server architecture and infrastructure needed a refresh. While many government organizations are often seen as technology laggards, the County of San Mateo set out to learn from the successes of Silicon Valley and help transform government IT with similar approaches. CIO Jon Walton and his team started the search for a new storage and server solution and evaluated a wide range of options. Ultimately, the decision came down to the fact that Nutanix is flexible, cost effective and an extremely scalable platform--not to mention that the team promised they could have the systems up and running in less than half a day.

List the key components in the solution: The Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform: San Mateo County currently now has 65 Nutanix nodes running in eight clusters.

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned: The deployment process was quick and easy. The County of San Mateo was up and running in less than half a day.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project: Results included:

  • Obtained easily scalable infrastructure
  • Reduced deployment time from days to hours
  • Simplified storage management
  • Ability to diagnose problems before they occur
  • Since the implementation, the County of San Mateo now easily pushes past a 90 percent virtualized footprint
  • Staff as well as customers are now more excited about embracing new technologies and being innovative in all of the efforts

Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings, and staff time savings, if any: After transitioning to this solution, an ROI analysis was conducted with Nutanix and one of the vendors from the project, and it was estimated that by the end of the fiscal year of implementation, more than $6 million of taxpayer money was saved by moving to the Nutanix hyperconverged configuration, rather than purchasing and deploying all of the traditional server, storage and computing environment required.

Additionally, since implementing Nutanix’s hyperconverged infrastructure solution, the County of San Mateo has been able to spend less time with infrastructure upkeep, which has led to a greater project load. In the fiscal year following implementation of the solution, 91 percent of major projects were completed on-time, on-budget and rated good or better in terms of customer satisfaction.

Add in any other references you think relevant: Read the entire case study here.

If you have a suggestion for an eWEEK IT Science article, email cpreimesberger@eweek.com.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...