HANNOVER, Germany — California CIO Teri Takai might as well be running the IT operation for an entire country.
After being named to her position in January 2008 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Takai has taken a year to evaluate the state of the state’s IT structure. She is now starting to make decisions on a long-term direction for a jurisdiction of 10,000 IT staff workers, 130 divisional CIOs and 38 million citizens-one that represents, in fact, the world’s eighth-largest economy.
If you are an IT vendor dealing in virtually any kind of data center-related product or services, you might want to consider giving Takai’s office a call in Sacramento. California has a lot of overhauling to do, and it will need good companies to help it do the job. It will spend about $3 billion a year for the next five to 10 years in this sector.
The state does its massive amount of work using technology that is now a generation old. The work-everything from processing driver’s licenses to coordinating law enforcement records to paying unemployment checks-has been getting completed day in and day out, but now it is time for a badly needed refreshment.
For example, the human resources division is still using a COBOL-based data system from about 1975, when the state population was half what it is today.
Due to the recession, unemployment insurance claims are way up, and the ancient IT system that processes those claims is barely able to keep up with the workload.
The total number of data centers located around the state will be reduced as the infrastructure becomes consolidated, using new virtualization and storage deduplication software. New servers that perform heavier workloads and use less power will eventually be coming online.
Better data center management tools will need to be put into place. That also will mean new software to manage and control the faster, more secure networks. Unified communications will be coming online. Upgraded security is in the plan.
We’re talking about a massive changeover during the next five years to 10 years. Takai is expecting the first $1.5 billion in state funding for the job to be available soon. It is awaiting committee and legislative approval, but Takai didn’t appear concerned about it, despite the state’s-and the world’s-current economic woes.
Improvement Sought Without Losing Headcount
Improvement Sought Without Losing Headcount
Takai said she and the state want to do all this with a minimum of job loss.
“There are a lot of ways we feel we can gain efficiencies that don’t necessarily mean a reduction in personnel,” Takai told eWEEK in an interview at the CeBIT 2009 conference here in Hannover.
Takai, Schwarzenegger and 50 Silicon Valley companies were feted as special guests at the conference by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government. A group of California IT journalists, including yours truly, were also in attendance at several of the official diplomatic events, which featured California Mexican food with local German fare.
“Clearly, our infrastructure today is very much decentralized,” Takai said. “Culturally, that’s been the pattern in state governments. Each individual department and organization has had their own IT. As you can imagine, just [doing] things like standardization, commonization, not having everyone build their own data centers-much less looking at some of the newer technologies like server virtualization-[will make a big difference].
“There are significant savings to be achieved without having to do a headcount reduction.”
However, Takai said she doesn’t expect her department to “plow all of our savings back into IT. We’d like to do some of that, but it’s really across the board from the state government standpoint-being able to utilize these resources properly.”
Where Do You Start Such a Project?
Where do you begin retooling such a monstrous IT project?
“Well, we started with an overall assessment, as you might imagine,” Takai said. “We found we have about 400,000 square feet of data center space; about a third of that is not in the secure facilities that we’d like for it to be; about a third is OK but not ideal; and about one-third is in what you’d call Tier 3 facilities.
“We have around 9,500 servers, as best we can tell, and about 100 versions of e-mail systems, just to give you a dimension of what we’re dealing with. Generally, it’s three large e-mail providers, but we have a few cats and dogs nobody’s ever heard of,” Takai said with a smile.
Takai’s office is establishing platforms and the standards so that “when we go to replace [infrastructure] in our normal cycles, we’ll be able to take the savings,” she said.
In a budget downturn, that’s really the best you can do, Takai said. “What it means is that you don’t get the savings as quickly, but it also means that you don’t have the upfront investment to get to the standardization.”
The state’s $3 billion IT budget may not seem like much when compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars the state budget amounts to each year, Takai said.
“I tell my guys it’s still a lot of money,” she said. “Even in an economic downturn, you can do a lot. That doesn’t even count some expected dollars from the federal stimulus package.”
California will get a certain amount from the Obama administration’s program, but the numbers aren’t yet determined.
California CIO Teri Takais Five Major Priorities
California CIO Teri Takai’s Five Major Priorities
1. “We want to view IT as a utility. We want to stabilize the underlying infrastructure so that as we’re looking at the deployment of applications, we’re not trying to create the infrastructure at the same time.
“In California, all of our projects are big-there’s nothing that isn’t big-and we have a history, just like everyone else does, of big projects failing. The legislature wants stability, and we feel the first step to that is not having to worry about the infrastructure.”
2. “We want to provide better and easier services to citizens. We want to move to more self-service. We have about 400 services online today, but the best of the best has about 800.
“Reasons for that are obviously efficiency-it’s better customer delivery, and it fits in with our green IT agenda. Again, not having people driving to offices [to obtain services] is the best way to go.”
3. “Collaboration. We need to be much more collaborative across state agencies, but it’s also our plan to reach out to the locals. For instance, we are just about to name a geographic information officer for all of our geographic information systems. The success of GIS is bringing in the information that the locals have as well as the information we have-which is particularly valuable for things like firefighting and the evacuation of personnel [in an emergency].”
4. “Sustainability. We want to be sure we’re following our green IT policies.”
5. “Data sharing. One thing we’re all concerned about is that we have chimneys of information. We don’t share information freely, and that’s really a challenge as we’re trying to bring our different programs together.
“It’s kind of fascinating because everybody tries to hide behind, ‘Well, I can’t because the feds won’t let me.’ Some of that is true, but some of it also is a convenient reason for not doing the sharing.”