How collaboration led to a better cloud in California

When California officials were looking to build a new cloud offering, collaboration between the CIO and CPO ended up critical to the project's success.

State technology and procurement executives should collaborate to find new ways to buy and build offerings like cloud infrastructure, according to a new case study on a California IT initiative.

California State Chief Information Officer Carlos Ramos said in the case study that collaboration between the CIO and the chief procurement officer was essential in a successful rollout to CalCloud, the state’s latest cloud offering.

“In that collaboration, communication is king,” Ramos said. “Early and ongoing communication helps keep everyone on track and brings in two different and very valuable perspectives. This ensures that there is consistency in messaging to state agencies and bidders and results in a better procurement process and better results.”

In the report, put out by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and the National Association of State Procurement Officials, Ramos advised other CIOs looking to invest in cloud to be deliberate and thoughtful with procurement, but to not be afraid to take risks.


“At the same time, be bold and innovative,” Ramos said. “Recognize that your old procurement models may have to be re-thought in a cloud world. Don’t be afraid of that. Recognize that it is an opportunity for improvement and modernization.”

CalCloud launched in July 2014 and marked a shift in the way that state governments procure and provide cloud services to their consumers. According to Neeraj Chauhan, the project director from the state Office of Technology, or OTech, the new infrastructure will let the office’s customers provide processing, storage, network and other fundamental computing resources, while also allowing them to deploy and run arbitrary software and applications through a self-service Web portal.

“This service sits behind the OTech managed network and firewall infrastructure,” Chauhan said in the case study. “The infrastructure is vendor-managed up to the hardware and racks, down to the operating system level. With OTech and the vendor managing and supporting the underlying cloud infrastructure, this allows the customer to focus on their business needs and the application deployment.”

The customers, federal, state, local and county government entities can subscribe to have access to California’s Cloud Infrastructure and manage their own specific environment through a self-service portal.

According to the case study, the procurement process took six months, while the overall project timeline was just nine months. Chauhan said the OTech team spent a third of the project time researching the large cloud service provider’s services catalog and then invited vendors to demo their offerings to the state.


“We wanted to make sure we put together a realistic set of requirements to match the maturity of the market,” Chauhan said. “We also surveyed the customers to gauge interest and create capacity projections.”

OTech then released an invitation for bid and allowed a six-week period of questions and answers. When the team evaluated the bids, Chauhan said the selection was made based on the adherence to the technical and business requirements in the invitation to bid. The solicitation also required that companies follow cybersecurity rules set out by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.

If a vendor met the criteria in the invitation for bid, they were evaluated on whether the offering would have a “production ready” portal, use commercially available software and hardware and consist of a mature security design. They also weighed its cost.

According to the case study, Chauhan said the project was considered a success because it met all of its business and technical goals of low cost, no cost upfront, self-service delivery; highly virtualized and standardized technical architecture; and the ability to be highly scalable and elastic.

Jim Butler, the state’s CPO, said the ability for Chauhan’s team to deem the project a success came because any decision along the procurement process could impact the process and the end product.


“Even though the general rule is that procurement officials administer the process and technology officials deliver the solution, collaboration throughout the process is critical because any decision has the potential to affect both the process and the solution,” Butler said in the case study. “For these reasons, California combined the procurement process for large IT projects with the technical project oversight function to eliminate artificial barriers to the free and open flow of information between these closely-connected disciplines.”

The NASCIO/NASPO case study is the seventh part of what has become a nearly annual case study from NASCIO on how states have moved to the cloud and the lessons learned from that migration.

“[We] believe the lessons learned and advice from the trenches will be invaluable to state CIOs as they procure services for their customers,” NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson said in a release.

The specific partnership with NASPO, however, is new, and according to a release from NASCIO, the California case study will be the first in a series of planned publications jointly released by the two organizations to cover information technology procurement issues.

“As the leading authorities on state procurement and information technology in state government, our respective associations were able to work together to highlight how different areas of state government can collaborate to respond to emerging trends in infrastructure,” Krista Ferrell, director of NASPO’s strategic programs, said in a release. “Our aim with this new case study is to provide practical information on successful procurement tactics that can help other state officials who are considering major information technology undertakings.”

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