Driving service up, capital costs down with services ‘on tap’
For NSW Department of Justice Chief Information Officer Aaron Liu, the State Government requirement for all departments to move to a new state-of-the-art Government Data Centre (GovDC) presented a golden opportunity.
Not only did it give him the ability to solve his data centre headaches, with much of his Department’s infrastructure reaching end-of-life, it presented a timely – and cost effective – opportunity to expand its engagement with multi-sourcing services integrator AC3 in a move that would drive service delivery up and capital costs down.
The NSW Department of Justice’s 11,000-plus employees deliver legal, court and supervision services through a network of agencies including Corrective Services, Juvenile Justice, Courts and Tribunal Services, Justice Policy and Strategy, Trustee and Guardian and Births, Deaths and Marriages.
The Department’s IT system is used by 11,000-plus employees from court staff to prison guards, as well as jurors and anyone dealing with the civil or criminal courts system. It delivers numerous online services - from secure communications, managing court timetables, procurement and financial systems, to issuing marriage certificates.
Those services include finalising almost 300,000 criminal law cases, dealing with about 150,000 calls to the Courts Service Centre and issuing around 100,000 birth certificates annually.
The Department’s 250-strong IT team is responsible for managing a complex environment - with 119 legacy applications across almost 50 different business units.
Multiple agency-specific justice and specialist applications lacked an integrated, whole-of-justice system- or department-wide approach, leading to duplicated functionality and processes. Disparate data models and data repositories created silos of information, limiting the capacity for a holistic, end-to-end process view of organisational performance, service delivery and knowledge discovery.
The fragmented ICT infrastructure environment constrained disaster recovery, performance and capacity at a time of growing business expectations for 24/7 availability.
The upshot was the Department wanted to move away from its heavy Investment in IT capital and maintenance costs for this diverse and complicated IT set up.
It also wanted greater reliability, flexibility and the ability to react faster to business needs. The aim was to free up time for the in-house team to focus more available resources on their end user customers, and less on intensive capital infrastructure investments.
Infrastructure was coming to end of life and the Department had six disparate data centre environments, two managed by AC3 and four in-house legacy operations.
Liu explained: “Our four legacy data centres were not fit for purpose and posed a risk to the delivery of critical services. Embedded into the business buildings some facilities could not be considered data centres with limited redundancy, inadequate security, poor power efficiency costly to maintain in terms of environmental factors like cooling. As a result, we didn’t have the capacity for business continuity and the assurance that we wanted. Capacity and continuity that is vital for us evolving to being a 24/7 digital enabled business”
For the Department of Justice, which has partnered with AC3 since 2007 when AC3 took on the responsibility for data centre provisioning and management for Corrective Services, the solution was two-fold.
Firstly, to migrate to the new GovDC in Sydney’s Silverwater. Secondly, to transition to a ‘everything-as-a-service’ cloud computing model.
The NSW Government’s new world-class data centre proved the accelerator for an extension of the partnership with AC3 beyond data centres to a broad-ranging managed services model.
With the GovDC facilitating a new approach to buying and using readily available ICT services ‘on-tap’ as-a-service, rather than buying hardware and software, agencies could access additional resources without major capital expenditure.
The move to an ICT services model enabled the Department of Justice to address a number of business risks, according to Liu.
“A lot of the infrastructure was end of life anyway, so it was to our advantage to move to an ‘as-a-service’ model.” He said.
“When it came to the technology approach, Liu had two alternatives: “One was to move to storage-as-a-service as part of AC3’s offering, which was able to be commissioned and put online within two to three weeks.”
“The alternative was to spend close to $2 million to procure our own storage area network infrastructure, with a lead time of three to six months. That would have been $2 million in upfront capital costs, as well as ongoing maintenances costs and with the long lead-time, we would have run out of storage.”
“We decided long ago not to purchase all our own infrastructure. We buy all of that as a managed service from AC3. AC3 owns, manages and operates all the equipment for the Department.”
The AC3 services solution ticked all the Department’s technology needs in terms of security, reliability and high availability of all systems, scalability and maximum return on investment.
It also facilitated resource sharing, to spread the load and costs – while ‘productive duplication’ meant good load balancing to improve performance, disaster recovery services and faster, easier sharing across data centres.
The GovDC migration project started in June 2014, with AC3 planning, managing and executing the migration of all Justice agencies. The prevalence of virtualisation, meant it took AC3 hours or days, not weeks and months, to successfully move data and services.
Corrective services was the first agency to move into the new Silverwater GovDC facility, followed by the Department of Juvenile Justice, with the migration of the entire Department of Justice was completed in March 2015.
What began as a focus on hosting services and moving into the AC3 data centre became a journey towards managed services, with the AC3 services catalogue including computing, storage, communications, security, web, back up, disaster recovery and mobility.
“The unique thing about AC3 was the procurement contract - we were able to engage and negotiate with them directly,” Liu said. “We did some market validation, market analysis including benchmarking and testing, and also did some extra validation through Gartner to make sure we were getting value for money.”
While the initial move to the GovDC saved more than $1 million, the ongoing impact is the significant ‘cost avoidance’ thanks to the ‘as-a-service’ model.
“With AC3 storage-as-a-service for example, our total cost of ownership over five years was around half the cost of procuring our own storage area network infrastructure. Plus, the AC3 services enable us to scale up and down as appropriate as well.” Liu said.
“It gives us a lot of services ability and agility we didn’t have before.”
Moving to the new GovDC and providing everything-as-a-service means no capital costs and budgets - just operational budgets, and the ability to scale services up and down as required. Immediate benefits include freeing resources - both capital and people - to focus more on customers and service delivery and work more productively.
“We’ve gone from a complex legacy data centre environment that was not energy efficient, or easy to maintain; to one that is highly secure, energy efficient and certified with very high uptime – typically AC3 gives us 99.95% availability.”
“There are a lot of benefits to the new facility and model. It aggregates government demand and establishes a services provider model marketplace that enables market place services to be achieved cost effectively and the facilities are state of the art.
“It’s ISO 27001 2013 security compliant, so it’s highly secure. It’s modular and flexible in its delivery mode, so it can be scaled out as needed. We have greater technical and operational standards with modern, certified facilities improving ICT reliability and we have known and transparent costs going forward. It’s all that we wanted.”
Liu is also looking to share services, development and operational costs across different government departments or even across governments.
“I sit on the Government Data Centre project as a whole for government, so I have a keen interest in ensuring that the things we have put in place here with AC3 can be leveraged with other organisations, either within or outside the NSW Government.”