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GCN : February 2014
CLOUD TACTICS 24 GCN FEBRUARY 2014 • GCN.COM updates, and the stable performance has been consistent," said Jonathan Reichen- tal, Palo Alto s chief information officer. The biggest regret is that the city didn t move more services more quickly into the cloud, he said, and it s moving today to take advantage of all the benefits of cloud computing. The takeaway is to move fast but strike a good balance between stable, known technologies and riskier, unprov- en solutions. "Our vision is to provision the majority of necessary city services via public cloud offerings," Reichental said, "but we will retain an on-premise footprint for some legacy requirements, critical systems and niche solutions." If there s any standard template for cities moving to the cloud, the approach that Palo Alto is taking is probably it, Nav- igant s Woods said. "It s definitely a hybrid world we are moving to," he said. "I think that s part of the approach that cities and other govern- ment entities are going to have to get used to for how they pick and choose their [cloud] options." 4GET SMART, USE THE CLOUD Smart city solutions are those that use data from embedded sensors and IT to better understand information-rich is- sues such as traffic flows, water manage- ment and infrastructure problems with a view to improving the livability of a city. They are increasingly seen as a neces- sity if your jurisdiction wants to remain competitive in attracting tourists and in- dustry and in improving overall quality of life for citizens. While it s possible for cities to enable smart technology without using cloud- based services, it s unlikely you will be able to do so in any meaningful way. "The cloud is what lets cities big and small leapfrog to the state of the art, without having to go through a very pain- ful process to get there," said Jesse Berst, chairman of the Smart Cities Council. "We re seeing the smart city approach being taken up across the spectrum, from small to big cities. But there s no way that small- and medium-sized cities in particu- lar could afford to do this by themselves." Cities such as Hartford, Conn., Dubuque, Iowa, and Carson City, Nev., are all examples of smaller places that have become very smart and that are us- ing cloud-based services extensively, he said. If you re moving toward a smart city or smart services approach, cloud will be es- sential, IBM s Parrish also believes. Cities are starting from different stages of maturity in providing services to their citizens, and they are focused on differ- ent goals. The smart city environment is another level of maturity altogether, she said, adding that the "use of cloud tech- nology can be an enabler to reaching peo- ple on a mass scale for these things." As an IT manager, you should not jump into smart city applications if you don t al- ready have experience with cloud-based services, Berst said. If that s the case, start with a small pilot project and work with a real-world problem. "Pick an application that creates an im- mediate citizen benefit and awareness," he said. "With cloud, you can increasingly get those off-the-shelf or in a semi-custom version, and get them up and running in just a few weeks." However, Berst doesn t think the cloud can be avoided. A smart city talks back to you, he said, through a massive amount of data. The value comes from being able to analyze that data in near real time, "and cities on their own just don t have the compute power and IT expertise to crunch all of that data." 5CONSIDER SHARED SERVICES The fiscal crunch that yours and simi- lar towns may have experienced has in- creased interest in services sharing be- tween agencies or between neighboring entities. Shared services is not the same as consolidating services, where multiple instances of a service or application are reduced to just one or two and then pro- vided from single host to many organiza- tions. With shared services, you share the cost of your IT infrastructure investment by selling services; meanwhile the receiv- ing agency gets a cost-effective way to provide services to its users. States such as Alaska, Montana and various western state cloud alliances have established shared services to their localities and cities. And cities themselves have been jumping into the fray. Melrose, Mass., for example, provides services to neighboring towns and to sites within the city through a secure, multitenant private cloud. The attraction of using the cloud to pro- vide shared services is very strong, said Navigant s Woods. While shared services have had a checkered history -- mainly because of political and cultural problems -- when it does work it opens up avenues to peer- to-peer communications or the ability to provide services in a more flexible way. "I think cloud is helping to overcome the problems and accelerate the use of shared services," he said. However, there are caveats. Your city might not be able to bankroll such a busi- ness deal, said PTI s Shark. If federal or state governments were to provide seed money it might be a different matter, "but it takes a lot of time and effort to put together the legal entity that can pool things from a government standpoint." "For that reason, it s so much easier for a city CIO to cut a deal with an Amazon, an IBM or whoever," he said. •