ROI: A Strong Argument for Government Data Center Upgrades

Data Center

When IT pros at the state and local levels want to win data center investments, it’s critical to show how the improvements will result in returns on investment.

  • Excellence Held Back by Aging Technology
  • Show Me the Money
  • Less Downtime & Maintenance
  • Prioritizing Security

Excellence Held Back by Aging Technology

Delta Diablo is a water resource recovery agency that serves 200,000 people in Northern California – residents of Antioch, Pittsburg, and Bay Point. Services it performs include wastewater treatment; production and distribution of recycled water; safeguarding against pollution; recovery of energy; biosolid reuse; street sweeping; and collection of residential hazardous waste. Its plant can process up to 19.5 million gallons of water per day.

Delta Diablo isn’t just any wastewater agency, though. It’s actually among the top 1 percent nationwide at what it does, according to the numerous Platinum Peak Performance Awards it’s received from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

The wastewater treatment operation often teams with outside public and private entities on projects. However, its data center has historically been standing in the way of such efforts.

“Our IT department is never 100 percent sure what’s coming down the pike in the next year,” explains the agency’s IT director, Chris Hanna. “We could sign a contract with an energy company for research and development, and we have to be ready for that.”

Delta Diablo’s hardware was simply getting old: the servers and storage appliances were 5 years old, while the switches and routers were 10 years old.

Related: At Superb Internet, our twenty-year history gives us the experience to handle the security and compliance needs of government agencies; and we have certifications to prove it. For example, our hosting infrastructure, IP backbone, and all operations are continuously audited under SSAE-16 SOC-1 Type II, ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 27001:2013 standards. Learn more.

Show Me the Money

Hanna didn’t want to upgrade Delta Diablo’s system piecemeal but all at once. To make his argument, he showed how it would be positive for the organization financially despite the cost upfront.

Hanna notes that getting the funds to completely upgrade the entire facility was challenging. Even though leadership is reasonable, they have to understand why it’s a smart way to invest.

Hanna’s proposal focused on three primary benefits of the refresh:

  1. Time to market for IT services would be improved.
  2. Reliability and business continuity would be boosted, doing away with downtime costs.
  3. Electricity expenses would be slashed by an incredible 80%.

Hanna is fully convinced himself that upgrading the hardware was a wise move for Delta Diablo. “The fact that we’ve built out this infrastructure allows us to get services to market faster,” he says. “When initiatives must be done quickly, we don’t have to worry about beefing up our infrastructure.”

IDC datacenter analyst Kelly Quinn agrees that investments in data centers often have strong ROI because you can reduce your energy and cooling costs while improving your availability.

It’s fairly straightforward to look at power savings, she says, but it can be more complicated to assign specific dollar amounts to other elements. You want to establish, as closely as possible, the expenses to the agency if mission-critical systems fail and how much more work can be achieved if latency is reduced.

You want to be able to say, explicitly, that you could avoid spending a certain dollar figure over the next five years if you make the refresh. A finance head will be more convinced to the extent you can turn soft, qualitative points into hard, quantitative data.

Less Downtime & Maintenance

A few years ago, Matthew Arvay was hired as the CIO of Virginia Beach, Virginia. At that time, there were four storage systems being used. Downtime occurred regularly. Maintenance costs were in the hundreds of thousands.

“We needed to reduce the complexity of the environment,” Arvay explains, noting that benefits of upgrading included “modernizing our data center, enhancing lifecycle management, enabling self-service provisioning and improving reliability, scalability and uptime.”

The refresh, which is currently underway, will slash the data center’s racks from 29 to 4, in turn saving the city tens of thousands on power costs. Reliability will be significantly improved; the expense of external maintenance will go down hundreds of thousands; and the man-hours dedicated to internal maintenance will be minimized.

Total savings are expected to be $675,185 per year. Plus, Virginia Beach won’t have to pay for a $1.2 million upgrade to its legacy storage hardware. Arvay estimates that the new system should pay itself off in less than four years, and the ROI after five years will be 25.2%.

Prioritizing Security

Texas Department of Information Resources data center chief Sally Ward believes it’s a good idea to upgrade one-fifth of your infrastructure annually, so that no pieces are ever more than five years old. While refreshes are costly, Ward says a strong argument is that they prevent security breaches. While non-IT leaders may not immediately agree with the expense, they certainly will if you get attacked and you suffer a painful data loss.

Ward says that she thinks agencies that don’t make regular data center refreshes are like people who don’t maintain their houses. “Had you stopped it in the beginning, before the roof was leaking, you probably could have done it more cheaply; [but] over time, you get to a place where you can’t afford the repairs,” she says.

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