Unlike most organizations, however, the government-focused unit of software and services provider SunGard has 150 million people depending on its network performance. For instance, the speed with which SunGard Public Sector can deliver information to a police squad car can determine how quickly officers can be on the scene of an incident after receiving a tip from a citizen. Hence, modernizing its network has become a priority with far-reaching implications.
More than 1,400 cities, counties, public safety agencies and nonprofit organizations rely on SunGard's technology, many in shared and/or hosted environments in which call center services and data run over its network.
Last year, when SunGard Public Sector's core data center switches were showing signs that they wouldn't be able to continue delivering the throughput needed to effectively deliver call center services, Charles Almy, senior director of information services at the time, determined a refresh was in order.
Not that the largely proprietary technology was failing; rather, it was requiring increasing care and feeding, and the company wanted to get out in front of any possible problem before it surfaced.
"We don't have systems that are crashing all the time now, but we do have a lot of work we do to maintain our switch network," Almy, who since has been promoted to the CIO post, said during a recent phone interview. "We have to stay up at all costs and be prepared for any situation that may occur."
After a review of several vendors last fall, SunGard Public Sector chose Brocade VDX switches, a more open switching fabric that Almy says will result in costs savings, simplified network management and room to grow and expand into an increasingly virtualized environment.
"A lot of data communications is going server to server, virtual machine to virtual machine," says Almy, adding that the resulting rise in complexity calls for improved management capabilities. Brocade's technology, he says, "almost flattens the network out."
More than anything, Almy says, SunGard Public Sector wants to ensure seamless support of its clients, and that requires maximum availability, which he expects the new switches to provide. The company recently acquired Brocade's VDX technology and is in the process of configuring it. Almy says a date for implementation has not been set yet.
The Brocade switches also will help SunGard Public Sector more effectively support one of the evolving trends in local government--namely, multijurisdictional implementations, Almy says. As government agencies try to eke out incremental cost savings through technology efficiencies, sharing technologies with agencies in nearby municipalities is proving to be an effective model.
For example, the company recently was asked to develop a shared call center for police departments spanning several towns in Michigan. In such cases, SunGard Public Sector's network routes data from the departments' various dispatch and records management systems to squad cars. The Brocade technology, Almy says, will help ensure the data gets to the squad cars as quickly as possible, potentially speeding response times.