What Are The Priorities?

By Susan Nunziata  |  Posted 07-16-2010

New York City's IT Roadmap

Carole Post, Commissioner of New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), did the unthinkable. She faced a room packed with IT solutions vendors at the Hilton New York hotel on July 15, 2010, to outline her agency's ongoing efforts to "enable the connected city" as well as improve the vendor management process. Thanks to a bevy of handlers, she managed to escape without getting kidnapped by any eager technology vendors. But that's not the real story here. What's remarkable is the sheer scope of implementations that Post's department already has underway and plans to unfurl in the next 12 to 36 months. Shortly after becoming Commissioner in January 2010, Post previewed New York City's IT roadmap in an interview with CIO Insight's sister publication, Baseline.

According to Post, DoITT provides support and services for more 100 separate city agencies, offices and organizations encompassing 300,000 employees. The agency's work also provides support for 8 million residents, 250,000 businesses and some 46 million visitors per year. Among the many departments that fall under Post's DoITT purview are:

  • IT services (overseeing implementation, operation and support of all citywide IT infrastructure and enterprise systems solutions)
  • IT security
  • IT policy and strategic planning
  • Emergency planning and citywide enterprise contracts
  • Telecom and network operations
  • Telecom policy and design
  • Wireless technologies
  • Project management office and performance management office
  • Customer relations and agency liaisons
  • Emerging and innovative technologies
  • Enterprise application services and app development
  • Web, new media and digital media operations

What Are The Priorities?

Post is spearheading a comprehensive plan announced in March 2010 to modernize and consolidate the outdated and often incompatible data infrastructure at more than 40 city agencies. The goal: To lower the New York City's cost of operations by up to $100 million over five years, reduce energy consumption and emissions, strengthen security, and improve overall IT service quality for agencies.  Citywide data center consolidation is one of the primary facets of this initiative.

DoITT is in the process of a top-to-bottom agency review and implementation of the Citywide IT Infrastructure Services program (CITIServ). New York City's legacy IT infrastructure is highly-fragmented, with more than 60 unique data centers serving 83 different entities, according to Post. Many of these are located in prime commercial real estate space. The vast majority of these facilities, and the technologies within them, are obsolete, and having dozens of entities employ the varied capital and skill sets necessary to maintain individual data centers is an inefficient use of resources.

Even worse, notes Post, these are not optimized for business continuity and disaster recovery. "We're not talking about forklifting servers from one location to another," she says, "but rather rationalizing how New York City approaches its IT infrastructure."

New data center facilities have been locked in and a failover active site for disaster recovery is in place. "We're deep into virtualization and will deploy the cloud -- and lots of it," says Post. "These uses will help us optimize the many applications we run today."

The Early Adopters

The data center migrations begun this year will continue through 2013. One early adopter has been the New York City Department of Education (DOE), which Post describes as "a city unto itself in terms of IT infrastructure." DoITT has already moved two applications from external hosting onto CITIServ, which will result in multi-million dollar savings for the DOE in 2011 alone, says Post. Other agencies on the early adopter list include Buildings; Housing Preservation and Development; Sanitation; and Finance. The organization has created the DoITT Service Catalog accessible by all city agencies. This spells out to agencies which services are offered, how these are defined, what benefits they can bring the agency, and what DoITT offers in terms of ongoing support for the various services. A BMC Remedy helpdesk tracking system is being rolled out so that agencies can track the progress of their activities.

The Remedy tracking system is part of an overall goal of transparency and accountability, not just within the city's government but also for the public.

For example, performance reporting dashboards are being developed that will make information available to agencies, residents and businesses alike. The first example is the New York City Stimulus Spending Dashboard, which shows how the city is using its Federal stimulus dollars. Other dashboards in the works include a customer service dashboard that enables the city to get feedback from the public in an interactive fashion.

Going Mobile

 

By fall 2010, Post says the agency will roll out New York City Big Apps 2.0, which will offer hundreds of smartphone applications for cities based on 200 data sets that she says are "searchable, sortable and nimble." Available initially for the iPhone, these applications will also be optimized for other smartphone platforms at a later date, says Post.

Examples include Mobile 311 for iPhone, which has already launched. It takes the city's phone-based 311 information and complaint line to the next level. For example, says post, a citizen who spots a pothole on the street can take a photo of it, which is geotagged to location, and immediately upload it to the 311 service, which directs it to the correct city agency for repair. Another application, New York City Hall, provides updates on news, information and events directly from the Mayor's office.

Wireless networking is also a priority, notes Post. DoITT has already rolled out a proprietary wireless network for public safety usage and the goal it to work with every city agency to assess their mobile computing needs, says Post.

When Every Dollar Counts

Post emphasized the challenges of achieving such ambitious technology goals in troubled financial times, noting that the agency's "do more with less" credo requires it to find innovative ways to help city agencies achieve new levels of efficiency. Part of this effort will include pursuing public/private partnerships with IT and technology startups, developers and vendors, as well as educational and academic communities.

A new vendor management program will spell out best practices and policies across all agencies and ensure accountability, transparency and rationalization of efforts. "We'll be tethering together cross-agency efforts to make sure we're not building three different systems when these can be unified instead," says Post.

More About CITIServ

As part of CITIServ, DoITT is designing and building a standardized infrastructure environment comparable in scope and features to those of leading industry IT providers. This environment will provide agencies with the same secure and recoverable data centers that they currently manage individually, but through a shared structure allowing them to realize a number of significant benefits:

  • Lower total cost of operations -- By leveraging economies of scale, New York City can reduce energy and facilities costs. It is estimated that after completion of most data center consolidation efforts, the city could achieve $100 million in cost savings over five years.
  • Reduced energy consumption and CO2emissions -- Implementing CITIServ will do as much to reduce CO2 emissions as will planting 1,000,000 trees, helping achieve the PlaNYC goal of reducing the city's carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2017.
  • Strengthened security -- CITIServ will allow New York City to continue strengthening the physical security and cyber security of its data, while also improving its ability to respond to emergencies.
  • Improved services for agencies -- Enhanced 24x7 capabilities and improved reliability and performance of consolidated data centers will allow agencies to devote greater focus to their core business missions.

    More About The July 15 Event

Post's July 15 presentation was part of a State and Local Executive Breakfast organized jointly by INPUT  -- which provides market intelligence, analysis, consulting, and events & training to help companies develop government business and public sector organizations achieve their objectives -- and technology industry trade organization TechAmerica. Event sponsors included Motorola, SAIC, CGI, Intel, Hitachi, TAOH.