California sees IT shifting to IBM-built cloud

State creates a cloud service that it believes can serve most of its IT needs

California is moving its IT services to a cloud, on-demand, subscription-based service that state officials believe may meet as much as 80% of its computing needs.

IBM has created the cloud-based service, operating in state-run data centers, under a five-year contract. The system went online July 10.

Operating a statewide cloud is new for California, and something they have no experience with, said Ron Hughes, the state's chief deputy CIO of operations. But as part of the contract, IBM is also obligated to train state workers to operate the cloud service, "so by the end of the contract, we can do it," Hughes said.

That doesn't necessarily mean that vendors will ultimately be out of the picture at the end of five years, but that California wants the ability to run its cloud service on its own, Hughes said.

California's move to cloud-based delivery and centralized IT with shared services is mainstream among the state and the federal government. But the approaches differ.

Pennsylvania, for instance, just announced an agreement with Unisys to provide similar on-demand computing services. That state wants out of the infrastructure management business and is consolidating seven data centers down to two.

Under the Pennsylvania plan, one of its two data centers will be based in a Unisys facility in Virginia. For security reasons, among other things, California wants its data center in its own existing facility, Hughes said.

The California Office of Technology Services issued an invitation for bids last year. Bidders were required to present a plan that was of "no cost to the state," with clients only paying for what they use.

California calls its offering "CalCloud." It is intended to be a flexible, self-service model, and voluntary for state agencies to use.

Hughes said that for state agencies, this subscription-based service will be "significantly cheaper" than the alternatives, and will give customers a new level of control over their IT services, such as adding capacity quickly.

Most state agencies, already running in virtualized environments, will be able to easily move workloads to the service. But services running on mainframes may not be migrated to the cloud, Hughes said.

CalCloud is being marketed to clients, which includes some 400 state department and local government entities. Users will be able to select their base server size, operating system -- Windows, Red Hat Linux and AIX, and then select the extras, RAM, disaster recovery, backup and storage.

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Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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