Need to update your datacenter when your midmarket IT organization's budget is squeezed tight? Kane County, the fourth-largest county in Illinois and one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States, suffered those two problems while still stuck with a Y2K hangover that left it littered with some 300 separate servers supporting every department and every application.
When CTO David Siles took the job in 2003, he got a mandate: Ditch the existing mainframe environment and drag the county to the leading edge of technology, but do it all with a pinched budget-now at $4.6 million yearly to support a population of 480,000 citizens and 1,450 county employees.
Virtualized desktops, virtual servers and a SAN proved key to his budget-minded plan. CIO first talked to Siles about his virtualization lessons learned in 2007; since then, he's reaped even more savings.
Virtual desktop makeover
The first thing Kane County tackled was desktop virtualization, in 2005, to solve a problem with a state welfare application used to manage programs for infants and children. It's a key application: All food stamps have to be administered through it for anybody in the county's welfare system.
Siles says he and his staff wouldn't have picked this legacy software themselves, given its old 16-bit architecture. But "that happens in government," he says, just as it does in the private sector: Instead of getting the most up-to-date technology, IT staff sometimes has to shoehorn legacy programs into updated infrastructures. This is particularly true for IT leaders in midsize organizations, like Kane County.
The application was running on legacy Novell infrastructure and using an outmoded protocol; specifically, the application used the IPX protocol, but the county had upgraded to switches and routers that no longer passed the protocol.
Kane County IT put the application into Citrix as instructed by the state, Siles says, but it just kept crashing.
Siles and his staff turned to VMware's VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) technology to see if that would solve the problem. Siles and his group decided to host the server, using VMware's ESX 3.0. VDI worked so well that it became a platform that the county has progressively pushed out to other uses, Siles says.
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT who's familiar with the deployment, says Kane County is a "classic example" of what an established mid-market-sized organization with obvious technological credentials and background-these guys were running a mainframe, after all-does when it takes the jump into next-generation technology.