The state of Wyoming started with a vision one year ago to build a private cloud that worked like a vending machine--spinning up whatever resources customers wanted when they wanted them, and billing them each month based on usage. In principle, the IT service delivery concept was straightforward. In practice? Not so much.
"Our vision of this private cloud compelled us to reconsider how we were deploying not only technology, but human IT resources throughout the state, "says Flint Waters, CIO for the state of Wyoming. "Resources and data centers were distributed throughout the state--but to make the vending machine cloud vision happen, we needed to consolidate in many cases."
Wyoming's IT strategy was to build out the data center as not only a technology-on-demand delivery service, but also a virtual resource for network redundancy, disaster recovery and failover.
"We wanted to reinvent how we delivered IT services throughout the state so that we could deliver these services over a distributed network--without someone in a distant location having to call up IT for that service," says Waters.
State IT staff members spent six months vetting vendors and IT service delivery products, only to experience frustration at the end of the process. "I think we interviewed over 12 different vendors," recalls Waters. "We were about to pick the 'best of the worst' when we located a company at a developers' conference we attended that could do what we wanted."
Waters and his staff worked with the vendor, CloudBolt Software, to develop a private cloud in which the software in the data center sits on top of a virtual environment. The architecture allows any IT resource demand placed on the data center to be achieved through the punch of a button.
"We recognized that our vision was not entirely a new concept," says Waters. "Amazon, Google and other Internet services use a similar approach. What we wanted to achieve was an automatic allocation of server, network and storage resources at the push of a button."
Like many data centers, Wyoming's infrastructure was a heterogeneous mix of technologies and vendors. Server resources originated primarily from Dell and HP. HP virtual hosting was the primary virtualization engine. In the area of storage, Wyoming used IBM SONAS technology for slower and least-cost hard disk storage (HDD), and solid state disk (SSD) for rapid access to spin up virtual machine quickly and on demand. "We used several tiers of service in our cloud architecture that included both active-active and active-passive connections," says Waters. "The cloud was distributed over two physical data centers that were networked with each other for purposes of disaster recovery and failover. As part of the failover strategy, we employ VMware--and SONAS storage is run in real time."