L.A. CTO: We Are Actively Upgrading City’s IT in the Cloud [March 23, 2015]
By Michael Keating
An exclusive interview with LA’s CTO reveals some of the city’s strategy
With more people employed in high-tech jobs (368,500) than any other metro region in the U.S., Los Angeles (population, 3,884,307) is an IT powerhouse. Leading the city’s team is Steve Reneker, general manager of the Information Technology Agency and Chief Technology Officer. He is spearheading several initiatives, including the development of CityLinkLA, which is a citywide initiative designed to make high-speed, high-quality broadband available in all areas of Los Angeles.
L.A.’s IT operation faces similar challenges to other city or county tech departments. For example, about 60 percent of the L.A. IT staff will reach retirement age within the next four years. More than half of the seven full-time workers at the help services desk have recently filed for their city pensions. Due to tight budgets, a lengthy hiring process and limited budget authority for hiring, Reneker is using student workers on a short-term basis to keep the city’s IT help desk staffed.
To help make its operation more efficient, the city is methodically embracing the cloud. In May, for instance, L.A. is expected to award a 10-year contract covering a new cloud-based municipal e-mail platform.
GPN spoke with Reneker recently about where the cloud fits in L.A.’s municipal IT strategy.
Government Product News: How is the city’s IT department structured?
Steve Reneker: We are very decentralized. We have 20 data centers out there, and it’s not very efficient. Our data center consolidation strategy calls for keeping three data centers for our private cloud apps, and moving everything else out into the public cloud environment. So over time, as departments need a technology refresh, the options offered to them will include various cloud environments.
GPN: Has your city department embraced the cloud?
SR: We have been moving some city IT functions to the cloud since early last fall. So I would say we have not seen any really significant changes yet. For the future, we certainly hope so.
We have probably seen a small percentage of change. For example, we just moved many of our city web pages to the Acquia cloud experience, which is a cloud-based hosting service and Drupal vendor-content management provider. We’ve seen a lot of improvement so there’s less complexity for our staff that we have to manage. We haven’t seen any reductions in staff in the process, however.
GPN: Has using the cloud helped reduce the server population in the Los Angeles city government?
SR: We’ve certainly seen some reduction in our server population, but we are still early in the process. Our IT unit is about 68 percent virtualized. We are spending a lot of time now going through upgrades on the Windows Server 2003 server operating system. The process gives us opportunities to either virtualize those environments or place them in the cloud. So we think there will be a large increase in migrations to the cloud over the next six months.