All too often, vendors talk as though every organization in the world is deploying bleeding-edge capabilities. Again, and again, you’ll see vendors talking about how their technology offers benefits for machine learning, edge computing, microservices, or whatever the latest buzzword is, because those are eye-catching marketing techniques that make buyers focus on innovation instead of proven value.
But most organizations need to strike a balance. They’re looking for proven value, relevance, and impact, alongside innovation enablement. They need new ways to grow, reduce downtime, add performance, and cut management overhead, while providing new and improved services to customers. Though striking this balance isn’t flashy, it is critical to operational success and customer satisfaction.
State and local governments, who rarely have extensive budgets and personnel, are often caught between wanting to improve and struggling with limitations. Since they are serving citizens, prioritizing stability, efficiency, and value will always take precedence over the latest trend.
In this case study, we’ll explore how the city government for Midland, Texas looked to Cloudistics for value, relevance, and impact without compromising stability and efficiency. We’ll speak with Willie Reston, City of Midland CIO, to learn how Cloudistics made an immediate difference for the IT organization of the City of Midland, and how their approach could help other cities escape the limits of legacy thinking.
SETTING THE STAGE
Before Cloudistics, the City of Midland had a typical infrastructure: servers, storage, and networking with legacy virtualization. These were managed through advanced server management software, with four administrators, each wearing multiple hats—and their situation hadn’t changed in years. They had the same infrastructure setup that virtually everyone has in state and local government. Their approach was reasonably efficient, reasonably easy to manage, and provided enough performance and uptime to not seriously impact services.
For Midland, aging infrastructure was a major impediment to ongoing success. They had recently spent thousands of dollars to add storage capacity, but their platform was running out of headroom. Their servers were dated and getting close to end of service life. A hardware refresh was becoming a necessity.
The City of Midland had ongoing virtualization issues, as their virtual machines regularly locked up. Because of this, the IT department realized they’d have to rebuild their server management software. They were regularly calling in for support, which took hours or days out of their regular efforts and occasionally impacted service delivery. To make matters worse, they were using an older version of the virtualization platform which restricted vendor support. This placed added pressure on IT to move toward a disruptive virtualization upgrade in order to just maintain support.
Security was a major concern. Their existing environment was out of date, and they employed outdated safety features, so vulnerabilities had to be monitored by the IT department. Yearly increases in malware and attacks caused regular challenges that restricted their ability to keep confidential records safe and secure.
Finally, finding talent to manage their environment was a challenge. In Midland, Texas—like hundreds of small cities around the world— expertise was limited and costly. Time-consuming searches for hardware administrators and virtualization experts restricted the IT Department’s ability to adapt and innovate. In Midland, as in most cities, the private sector offered more opportunities for compensation, training, and advancement. The City of Midland, though a good employer, wasn’t necessarily the first choice for IT experts. They typically had to find people and train them, which took time and money they rarely had.
Midland realized they had goals and objectives they couldn’t meet. At the time, they had a single data center. Building a second data center for backup and disaster recovery was a priority, but both hardware costs and the costs of additional licensing got in the way, as adding a DR site would double their virtualization licensing costs. Their need to refresh the production environment had to be a priority, so building a DR site sat on the back burner and couldn’t move forward.
All these problems had turned into a perfect storm and the situation had to change. They had goals to shift toward digital transformation, leveraging data analytics and ever rolling out Smart City capabilities like automated meter reading, but legacy environments, access to expertise and cost constraints delayed their progress. Midland’s IT department wanted and needed to rethink their approach to IT, and so they began a search for a new way forward.
COMING TO CLOUDISTICS
The City of Midland, working with a technology partner, put out a request for new infrastructure. They received responses from:
- A well-known hyperconverged infrastructure vendor
- A unified computing system from a traditional networking vendor
- New servers, storage, and networking from a Tier 1 infrastructure vendor.
All of these would improve performance and reliability, but none of them solved their fundamental issues. Each solution would use traditional virtualization, so they’d be stuck with licensing costs and problems finding personnel. Each would come with hardware administration needs. And the total cost of each platform was so high that Midland couldn’t afford to build their disaster recovery site.
At the final hour, as Midland’s CIO was about to sign a contract for hyperconverged infrastructure, someone suggested Cloudistics’ private cloud platform. A Cloudistics expert, who happened to be in Midland, took the IT team through a thirty-minute demo. But in a twist, the Cloudistics expert, Max, asked Willie, Midland’s CIO, to perform the demonstration. Willie was able to set up two entire data centers, establish replication and backup with site to site failover, and add complex applications by himself—thought he had never even seen the platform before.
Willie’s response? “I couldn’t believe basically what I was being shown. No, that’s too good to be true. This can’t work like this.”
But it could. Cloudistics, with all-inclusive hardware virtualization, cloud capabilities, built-in disaster recovery, security, premium support and simplified management, had the potential to be a game-changer for Midland.
But there’s always a catch. With all those features, Cloudistics was ridiculously expensive. Right?
Wrong. Cloudistics worked up a quote—and including cloud software, management, support, and hardware, Cloudistics was so inexpensive, the City of Midland could afford to redo their production site and build a disaster recovery site. With conventional approaches, Midland could have half of what they wanted. With Cloudistics, they could have everything they’d dreamed of.
What happened? The contract for hyperconverged infrastructure was thrown out, and the City of Midland signed a contract with Cloudistics.
THE CLOUDISTICS EXPERIENCE
It’s one thing to buy a platform, and another to use it. Did Cloudistics impress Midland? Was their experience really as positive as it could have been?
Deployment: the hardware was so easy to deploy and so well labelled that rack and stack at three locations took a couple of hours—total. A Cloudistics team went onsite and set up the entire platform within twenty-hour hours.
All-inclusive: The Cloudistics platform came with everything, virtualization, data protection, backup, security, and analytics. No add-on features. As an example, another vendor was going to charge $100,000 for migration. Cloudistics provided a self-service migration tool to move live workloads from the old infrastructure to Cloudistics—for free.
Simplicity: their CIO said, “A novice could run it. Cloud expertise didn’t matter. If you logged in, you could easily figure it out.” Knowledge transfer from the Cloudistics deployment team to Midland’s IT team took three hours, not three days or three weeks. Finding people to use it isn’t an issue any longer, and City of Midland eradicated overtime.
Agility: when IT has a call from another department, requesting a new virtual machine, their administrators say “No problem, I’ll have it done in 30 minutes.” The response on the other end of the phone? “Uh, what?” The platform automation and the integrated Application Marketplace makes provisioning so straightforward administrators can spin up dozens of workloads in minutes. Before Cloudistics, the process would take a day.
Migration: Cloudistics Migration Manager automatically moves workloads from their old environment to the new one, tests dependencies, and then turns off the old virtual machine. Users wake up and experience improvements without ever knowing what’s happened.
Performance: It’s not just Midland that’s impressed. Cities require specialized software for public safety dispatch, airport management and other tasks. When software vendors came in and installed their software for records management and other services, they said “Oh my gosh, this is quick.” High performance processors, all-flash storage and leading-edge interconnects deliver exceptional performance.
Support: instead of calling and waiting on hold for support, Midland’s administrators have one-click EarlyInsight support, in the management interface, for everything. Support typically takes a few hours to solve critical issues.
Security: with the built-in security features, including integrated firewalls and encryption, Midland has reduced their malware and attacks significantly.
Analytics: with built-in analytics, the Midland IT team will be implementing chargeback to the various departments that use Cloudistics resources in order to help pay for the platform.
Value: Midland could build out two locations, with extra compute and storage, for the same price as infrastructure for a single location. They’ve saved over $100,000 in just licensing alone.
That’s not a bad experience for any new technology. But for a new private cloud—it’s unprecedented. Now they are supporting 26 city offices and hundreds of workers with 3 data centers, replicating across all, and without exploding their budget.
Local governments aren’t known for innovation, so it is noteworthy that the City of Midland was willing to take a chance with Cloudistics. Their decision wasn’t just a result of the limitations of legacy approaches, but it stemmed from a recognition that innovations translate into real value. Today, Midland’s IT department is going from strength to strength, applying their budgets in ways that translate into improved service delivery, rolling out Smart City capabilities while supporting existing workloads. With Cloudistics, they have more than enough headroom to handle upcoming initiatives without compromising performance, simplicity, or cost.