Today, officials in Columbus, Ohio, are happy to have embraced hyperconverged infrastructure, an investment that paves the way for the future, according to the city’s technology department.
“We decided to take a completely different approach to how we provision infrastructure,” says Columbus CTO Sam Orth. “The objective was to modernize, to become more agile, to be able to set up infrastructures on demand. “
The department has moved to a hyperconverged infrastructure environment built around Dell EMC’s HCI product, VxRail, explains Orth. The software-defined platform, which Dell developed with VMware, sits atop the city’s two data centers to combine and virtualize existing servers and storage.
“What it does is put everything into one integrated system, so instead of having to manage the server and storage environments separately, you do it through a single pane,” says Orth.
In addition, the HCI architecture makes it easy to add capacity. “One of the challenges we face as a government IT service provider is that we can’t always predict which systems we will acquire in the future. With HCI, when we need to grow, instead of having to make a big capital investment to rebuild our entire infrastructure, all we have to do is buy another brick or another node, ”says Orth.
“For many agencies, and over the past year in particular, HCI has become their quick access ramp to modernization,” says Christian Perry, senior research analyst at 451 Research, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence . The main reason for the increased adoption of HMI? “Ease of scaling,” he says. Officials can easily expand storage, compute and networking in one place with HCI solutions.
Many cities had already drawn up IT modernization plans before the pandemic, but COVID-19 accelerated them. “The pandemic has forced their hand,” says Perry. “They realized they had to put these strategies into action, and many of them decided hyperconvergence was the way to go.”
HCI helps increase the capacity of government departments
That’s exactly what Columbus did last spring, at the height of the city’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Orth says. As municipalities across the country grappled with long queues for appointments as thousands attempted to log into their systems at the same time, Columbus handled the rise with relative ease.
“With virtual machines on top of HCI, we had the ability to replenish these systems in near real time,” says Orth. “We gave them more compute, more memory, more capacity, and it got people to work a lot faster, and it probably saved them a lot of frustration. “
Columbus’ technology department is like any other in its mission to provide citizens with the services they need despite the team’s limited staff resources. “We don’t have as many people as we would like, but we will still do everything we can to make sure our customers are happy,” says Orth.
HCI makes managing the city’s IT systems “as simple and straightforward as possible,” he says, “and that makes us so much more productive by dramatically improving our operational efficiency.
RELATED: Find out how HCI provides faster storage for government applications.
Newington, Connecticut turns to HCI to streamline IT footprint
Orth and his team in Columbus aren’t the only ones in government IT singing the praises of hyperconverged infrastructure.
In Newington, Connecticut, where Paul G. Boutot is CIO, the city turned to HCI to simplify network operations and reduce operating expenses. Newington is now on its second generation of hyperconverged equipment, deploying HPE Simplivity, explains Boutot.
HPE’s implementation minimized and simplified the city’s data center footprint through savings in rack space, reduced cabling and network switching, and improved energy efficiency, says Boutot . The city is also seeing gains in backup and disaster recovery performance, and in its ability to manage IT systems without disrupting customer workflows.
“We can easily switch production servers to different hosts so that we can upgrade core components during normal business hours with little to no impact on our users or citizens,” Boutot explains.
TO EXPLORE: How does the upgraded IT infrastructure support modern digital government?
Hyperconvergence helps Pearland, Texas to grow quickly
Making sure his team has the technology they need to meet the growing demands of the city’s residents is also a top priority for Daniel McGhinnis, CIO of Pearland, Texas.
The percentage of survey respondents who want to increase their HCI budget in 2021 to support new IT initiatives or project requirements
Source: spglobal.com, “Hyperconverged Technology Investment Ready to Grow, Powered by Enterprise Computing – Survey 451,” January 25, 2021
“Ultimately,” says McGhinnis, “everything we do in this department is about providing high quality service to our citizens and businesses. “
This mission has become more difficult in recent years as the population of Pearland has “exploded,” says McGhinnis. The city has about 120,000 inhabitants and its government alone has 800 employees. His department has a staff of 18, which is meager.
When McGhinnis became CIO in 2015, the city acquires additional servers to accommodate IT growth when it adds a new service or software application. These acquisitions created management challenges.
“It takes personnel resources to plan and implement all updates and fixes and whatever is needed just for general maintenance,” says McGhinnis. With a view to modernization, managers adopted the hyperconverged Cisco HyperFlex solution.
“The beauty of hyperconverged is how easy it is to expand. I just bought some extra hard drives and put them in the boxes, ”says McGhinnis.
Thanks to network and operational performance gains, the HyperFlex infrastructure has also enabled the city to implement a range of new technologies.
Meanwhile, maintenance is largely automated and downtime is never an issue. “Now I can just move the workloads from the server being updated to the ones that are up and running and available,” says McGhinnis.