Orange County CTO Describes Journey To IT-As-A-Service

The IT department of Orange County, Calif., has turned itself into a provider of IT-as-a-service for other county agencies over a two-year-plus period, and in the process vaulted itself into the top 10 percent of government agencies in terms of its ability to provide IT services.

Joel Manfredo (pictured), CTO for the County of Orange, outlined his organization's journey to the cloud during a presentation to government and business CIOs and IT administrators at the annual three-day end user symposium hosted by Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider.

The County of Orange consists of 32 agencies and a $5.6 billion budget, said Manfredo, whose department provides IT services to those agencies from a 66,000 square foot data center.

These services include network and platform, telephony, data center operations, security, and business continuity infrastructure as well as business information services such as database, applications, IT processes, and quality assurance. County departments have the option of getting their services from any provider, which means his team has to compete with commercial service providers, he said.

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However, unlike commercial cloud service providers, Manfredo said he has to set prices that reflect the fact that his organization is a government agency.

"At the start of the year, we have to set the rate for these services so that at the end of the year we don't make money or lose money," he said.

Setting the rates for the year has to take into account multiple considerations, Manfredo said. These include costs related to the server, networking, security, and other hardware and software; the costs of contracts for providing and maintaining WAN connectivity; data center facility costs; depreciation of the firewall, router, core switch, monitoring, and content filtering hard and software; and labor costs and other IT services.

"These are real costs," Manfredo said. "And they must be covered."

Manfredo's organization worked closely with Nth Generation’s Professional Consulting Services and Hewlett-Packard’s Converged Infrastructure Maturity Model (CIMM) to develop a comprehensive transformation plan, measuring progress with such metrics as reduced incident tickets, decreased SLA exceptions, and increased staff productivity.

Orange County's move to become a cloud services shop was a five-phase journey which began in April of 2009 and is still ongoing. The county decided it needed to provide managed services to its agencies while making its IT services more efficient, Manfredo said.

Prior to the start of the journey, the IT department was heavily siloed in terms of its services. Personnel found it difficult to assign responsibility for issues and were reluctant to change, he said.

At the same time, the department had to deal with a 27-percent cut in its budget over two years, he said.

The first phase consisted mainly of a variety of training and planning processes to lay the foundation for delivering IT as a service, including assessments of all personnel in the IT department to learn how to best work with them as the department changed.

Phase two, which started in October of 2009, focused on reorganizing the department's network and platform services, designing the services, and monthly MAP (management action plan) meetings to assess the progress, Manfredo said.

The IT department went through a process of looking at the kind of services its customers required, who could build those services, who would use them, and potential issues before it actually started building its service packages, he said. "This brings a level of efficiency into the build and transformation process that we wouldn't have had before," he said.

NEXT: Moving Forward On Setting Up Its Services

Starting in October 2010, the department moved into phase three, which focused on setting up a marketing brochure to serve as a mini catalog of its services, and a re-implementation of its service desk.

Manfredo said the mini service catalog and the department's new slogan, "Agency Success Is Our Mission," were designed as a way to sell its services to the County's agencies. Part of that mini service catalog included getting some CIOs of different agencies to serve as success stories.

It was during phase three that Manfredo's department had what he called its "Mojo moment."

"In November of 2009, we didn't have a single SLA (service level agreement) breach," he said. "That never happened before in 30 years."

In phase four, which started in January, Manfredo's department finalized its Network Operations Center and its full suite of services. This included deploying a suite of BMC services throughout its cloud as a way to standardize its IT as a service offerings quickly, he said.

Phase five, which is currently in play, includes setting up a full services catalog and benchmarking the county's services. Manfredo said he wishes he had set up the services catalog first instead of waiting until the end, as it could have helped in setting rates.

Manfredo said that adopting the cloud to provide IT as a service has led to a 32 percent drop in incidents from his department's customers, and that the number of resolved incidents has grown significantly. SLA exceptions fell by 77 percent between 2009 and 2010, while the average number of days to resolve issues dropped by 75 percent.

"This is impressive stuff," he said.

In fact, it was so impressive that Orange County is ranked among the top 10 percent of government agencies across the country in terms of its ability to provide IT services, Manfredo said. "And we did it while headcount dropped 27 percent," he said.

Asked by an audience member how his department was able to further budget cuts as it increased the efficiency of its operations, Manfredo responded that his department is already at a point where any increases in efficiency would require a change in the SLAs it offers customers.

"If someone tells me they want to cut my budget, I'll say OK, what services do you want me to cut," he said.