For its 56,000 workers, the State of Michigan had a core IT infrastructure that included 40 data centers, 34 operating environments providing office automation services, and 40 e-mail systems. To reduce redundancy and cost, while boosting performance and efficiency, the state decided to centralize on a single technology environment. After considering environments based on Novell and Linux, Michigan chose Microsoft® technologies. The resulting IT environment has reduced operating costs for the state by more than U.S.$10 million per year based on the reduction in the number of computer servers needed. It’s decreased staffing costs by another $4 million. It has also increased system availability and reliability, and provided the foundation for a new generation of applications that will better serve the people of Michigan.
The government of the State of Michigan operates with a technology infrastructure that many corporations would find daunting—one that supports 56,000 state employees with e mail accounts and PCs, scattered across 19 agencies and approximately 1,200 facilities throughout the state.
The massive core infrastructure serving these employees and agencies had grown in a decentralized way and, by 2006, was operating without the central direction and optimization that would make it possible to provide maximum service to the citizens of Michigan in the most cost-effective ways.
Each agency, for example, had its own IT department, which meant that many services were replicated from agency to agency. Combined, the agencies supported 34 desktop and server operating system environments, mostly Novell, with a mixture of Windows® and other systems. The e-mail situation was even more complex, with about 40 e-mail systems—mostly Novell GroupWise and Microsoft® Office Outlook® and Microsoft Exchange Server—operating throughout the state. Because the state also ran multiple user directories, including Novell eDirectory and the Windows Server® Active Directory® service, the state didn’t maintain a single, statewide directory and employees working on interagency activities couldn’t always send e-mail to one another. Sometimes even the governor was unable to send e-mail to a specific state employee.
Some 3,000 computer servers operated in 40 data centers statewide. Some of those servers were eight years old, well past their prime. Many were in small data centers that lacked sufficient air conditioning and electrical generators to ensure reliable operation—although they ran mission-critical operations. The state used a mixture of competing software tools to manage the servers and desktops, such as ZENworks and Microsoft Systems Management Server, as well as Michigan’s own Michigan Workstation Management System. Many operations were handled manually.
“We pushed out antivirus software to 56,000 computers using 34 different processes, many automated and the rest manual updates,” says Mike Binkley, Director of Office Automation Services, Michigan Department of Information Technology “We couldn’t be sure which computers received and successfully deployed which updates. This wasn’t the level of security we wanted for the state’s technology infrastructure.”
Yet another set of issues revolved around the business productivity software that the state used. Although software in the Microsoft Office system had been the traditional choice, newer, seemingly less expensive options—most notably Gmail from Google, and Google Applications—were now available. Were they right for the state?
While Binkley and his colleagues were grappling with those technology infrastructure issues, finances in the State of Michigan, like finances in virtually all state governments, became increasingly tight. Whatever technology Michigan would choose to solve its infrastructure problems, that technology would have to result in a highly cost-effective solution.
To address those concerns, and to achieve a centralized, optimized core IT infrastructure that maximized performance and customer service while minimizing costs, the state launched a major IT overhaul called Michigan/1. The Michigan/1 campaign would deal with all the key issues that state IT administrators faced: user directories, e-mail systems, data centers, system management, and business productivity software.
||We would be a Microsoft shop and could pull our resources together moving in one direction. That’s where the future is.
Director of Office Automation Services, Michigan Department of Information Technology
Before it could implement a centralized infrastructure, the state needed a centralized IT organization. The first step was to consolidate the 19 IT departments throughout the state into a single IT organization, the Michigan Department of IT (MDIT). Projects such as Michigan/1 came out of the consolidated organization with the goal of moving Michigan forward in its technology use.
The majority of the infrastructure services were consolidated into one organization before any standardization efforts were completed. The new organization faced unlikely issues—such as the lack of any help-desk support at seven state agencies because the help-desk staffs had all taken an early retirement option offered by the state at the same time. Other issues were bigger; for example, many of the technical staff supporting servers and desktops in the new, centralized IT organization were pulled in different directions and waited to see what single technology the agency would adopt. Novell- and Microsoft-based technicians had spent 20 or more years of their careers learning and supporting their favored vendor solution, and none of them were willing to give up their favored solution easily.
Setting the Direction: Directory and E-Mail Services
The first technology consolidations involved the e-mail systems and the directory systems that supported them. One of the goals of the e-mail consolidation was a single, statewide e-mail address book. State employees had never had one address book showing all state employees. Adopting a phased approach, the state tackled the e-mail issue first by consolidating the 40 e-mail systems into just two: a GroupWise system and a system based on the Office Outlook 2007 messaging and collaboration client and Exchange Server 2007.
That left the directory decision as the only roadblock to a single, statewide e-mail system. “To decide the direction for our directory and e-mail systems, we looked at both functionality and cost,” says Binkley.
The state conducted an exhaustive comparison and evaluation of the two technologies, stretching over two years. “We talked to state staff, Gartner, other private advisers, and many leading private-sector companies; looked hard at where the industry was moving; and tried our best to project the future based on trends and facts,” says Binkley. “Again, we also looked at where these two sets of products—as well as Novell and Microsoft—stood in the marketplace and where we thought they were going. We picked Active Directory as the backbone for our comprehensive, managed software system. We didn’t see a future for the Novell technology based strongly on its declining marketplace share.
“As employees of the new IT organization, we now had a single direction to build on moving forward,” Binkley added. “Active Directory alone enabled the creation of a statewide directory into which all agencies could connect. It also set an important direction for the state. We would be a Microsoft shop and could pull our resources together moving in one direction. That’s where the future is.”
Consolidating the Data Centers
The Michigan DIT consolidated its 40 data centers to 3 data centers, and consolidated its approximately 3,000 office automation servers to approximately 700. At the same time, it centralized its data centers on the Windows Server 2003 operating system and, more recently, on Windows Server 2008. The use of Windows Server enabled MDIT to choose Microsoft System Center products, such as System Center Configuration Manager and System Center Data Protection Manager, over ZENworks and other third-party products, for system management.
“The System Center products worked hand-in-hand with the Microsoft-based infrastructure we were putting together,” says Binkley. “They would enable us to automate key management functions, like pushing out software and security updates, ensuring that those updates happened successfully, and on time.”
The consolidation of the Michigan infrastructure, by eliminating the multiple points of failure inherent in a highly decentralized system, put more pressure on the infrastructure to operate with high reliability. To deliver that reliability, the state applied a combination of Windows Clustering Services and System Center Data Protection Manager. Windows Clustering Services provides failover support to cover the outage of any given computer in a cluster, while Data Protection Manager backs up information to out-of-state hosting centers so that the state can restore data in the event of a disaster-recovery situation.
Ensuring Office Functionality
As the state’s 2003 Microsoft Office software was falling out of support, the state faced the decision of whether to upgrade to the 2007 Microsoft Office release or to choose an alternative, such as Gmail, Google Applications, and Linux-based alternatives.
“There was no doubt that licensing for Google or Linux would have been less expensive than for Microsoft Office,” says Binkley. “And there was a lot of buzz around these newer alternatives. Given the significant budget constraints we were under, the department’s director asked us to evaluate Google and Linux versus Microsoft.”
That evaluation included a pilot of the Google software at several key agencies. The verdict, says Binkley, was that “Google apps weren’t ready to handle the state’s business. They weren’t robust enough and they lacked the full functionality that we needed. We needed our decision to last us for at least four to five years. Google wasn’t the office software for the next four to five years. Most of our users need a more robust platform.”
Another factor in the state’s decision was that the contents of Gmail would sit in servers not under the state’s control. “The security of our communications is para¬mount,” says Binkley. “Google couldn’t guarantee that security.”
By choosing to centralize on the Microsoft application platform, the State of Michigan is saving more than U.S.$10 million per year, boosting the reliability and availability of its infrastructure, and establishing the foundation for new applications that will better serve the residents of the state.
Saving $14 Million Annually
One of the key drivers for the Michigan/1 project was to reduce the operating costs of the state’s massive core IT infrastructure. And that’s what the project has accom¬plished. Operating costs—including hardware, software, and hosting fees—have declined by almost $1 million per month, or more than $10 million per year, thanks to the consolidation. Managing that consolidated infrastructure also costs less—another $4 million per year in reduced staff costs—resulting in lower rates and cost savings to state agencies. The state anticipates saving yet another $1 million from further staff cuts related to the consolidated infrastructure.
By centralizing technology, the state has eliminated redundant servers and redundant processes to manage those servers. By centralizing IT personnel, the state has been able to redeploy its workers to the most productive functions, in some cases allowing the state to offer new services.
||When you look at the total cost of ownership, Microsoft clearly cuts costs while delivering superior performance and functionality.
Director of Office Automation Services, Michigan Department of Information Technology
The choice to centralize on Microsoft technologies has contributed to those savings, according to Binkley. “If you just look at licensing costs, Microsoft may not be less expensive than alternatives such as Linux,” he says. “But when you look at the total cost of ownership, Microsoft clearly cuts costs while delivering superior performance and functionality.”
For example, Binkley cites the Active Directory service, which provides a single backbone for state infrastructure services. Similarly, Microsoft System Center products provide a single, comprehensive way for the state to manage its growing infrastructure.
By centralizing its infrastructure on Microsoft technologies, the State of Michigan has not just reduced costs. It has also created a more reliable and available statewide core IT infrastructure, according to Binkley. For example, the Michigan/1 office automation infrastructure built on Microsoft tools has had no reported virus attacks over the last two years.
“Just one outage of mission-critical services could be a disaster to the state and to the residents we serve,” says Binkley. “With Microsoft, we are far better protected than ever before and far less likely to see such outages. That’s a benefit of incalculable value.”
The increase in availability isn’t the only way that state employees experience the new core infrastructure. Unified e-mail enables enhanced interagency cooperation, such as the ability of agents in law enforcement agencies to share e-mail and find one another in the statewide address book, even though they are on different e-mail systems today. This was a first under MDIT. Employees also find that the system is more responsive. “Our state employees now have a system that works for them,” says Binkley.
These differences are significant, says Binkley, because they’ve led to high levels of acceptance for the new environment. “You can’t underestimate the importance of the acceptance we’ve seen from users,” he says. “We have people here with 25 years of experience with Novell. Migrating from GroupWise and other Novell applications wasn’t a small thing for them. Our staff took great pride in the service they offered their customers over the years and they needed to know the new tools would allow them to continue that personal service. Great tools are one thing; however, we couldn’t have pulled it off without staff support and hard work. If we hadn’t succeeded, we would have heard from customers. The migration to Microsoft has been successful.”
Establishing the Foundation for Greater Customer Satisfaction
The move to a centralized, Microsoft-based core infrastructure has done more than reduce costs and increase productivity. It has also set the stage for new applications that provide new levels of customer service for the residents of Michigan.
For example, the state is currently piloting an application based on Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007 that provides the MDIT employees with a new Web site for training, called MDIT University. The solution is also being used to rewrite the MDIT TechTalk Web site with team rooms.
“We can adopt these types of applications because we have an infrastructure that is faster, more reliable, and more agile than we’ve ever had before,” says Binkley. “We can spend the time adding value by developing and deploying solutions like this—time that used to be spent merely maintaining what we had. Could we have done this by choosing another application platform? I don’t know. But I know for sure that we could do it by choosing Microsoft.”
Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization
With infrastructure optimization, you can build a secure, well-managed, and dynamic core IT infrastructure that can reduce overall IT costs, make better use of resources, and become a strategic asset for the business. The Infrastructure Optimization model—with basic, standardized, rationalized, and dynamic levels—was developed by Microsoft using industry best practices and Microsoft’s own experiences with enterprise customers. The Infrastructure Optimization model provides a maturity framework that is flexible and easily used as a benchmark for technical capability and business value.
For more information about Microsoft infrastructure optimization, go to:
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