The Federal Election Commission, the publics window into campaign finance, is gradually shifting its IT infrastructure to a virtualized system of services managed remotely. In a five-year contract just signed with Savvis Federal Systems, the FEC will begin the migration with some of its server functions.
Until now, the FEC owned an FTP server and a mail relay server, but the new contract with Savvis turns these capabilities into utilities, meaning that the FECs IT team will no longer have to worry about managing and upgrading the hardware.
"Now we will get FTP services from Savvis, and therefore we wont have an FTP server sitting around depreciating," said Jim Allen, infrastructure branch manager in the Information Technology Division at the FEC. "We dont have to worry about the obsolescence of a particular piece of equipment. Were talking at this point about two machines—its somewhat minimal, but its a new model for us."
The contract is valued at $4,487,234, according to Savvis.
Over the next few months, the FEC plans to add a number of new features to its Web site to make it easier to track campaign contributions. A more flexible and creative database will facilitate searches about candidate information, and a map application will illustrate where donations are coming from, Allen said.
"It will be easier under this virtualization model to add the necessary horse power to accomplish the upcoming changes we will have for the user," he said.
At this initial stage, the utility model will not likely reduce the costs of the services, Allen said. "I think right now theres probably little savings for us. The idea of it as we move forward is that it would provide a great savings in terms of us not having various pieces of hardware sitting around," He said.
In addition to server technologies, the virtualized service offerings from Savvis include storage and managed security. The choice of which services are optimized by the utility model must factor in the life cycle of a particular piece of hardware, and also the culture of an organizations data management, said Don Teague, vice president of Savvis Federal Systems. For example, some organizations will be less inclined to shift their security functions to an outside provider.
"Certain applications have unique or proprietary security measures," Teague said. "The FEC is not jumping into utility with both feet."
In the private sector, Savvis has seen growing interest in the utility model in the retail, health care and financial sectors, Teague said. "We take the complexity out of their IT infrastructure. We allow a company to concentrate on what gives them a competitive advantage."