MiCloud Makes Computer Services Faster, Cheaper in Michigan
By Jennifer Ginn, CSG Associate Editor
In the past, Michigan’s state information technology department specialized in delivering the expensive “gold, silver and bronze” type of IT service projects, those that needed a lot of safeguards to prevent any downtime. What they were missing was a cheaper, faster service that falls more along the lines of aluminum or tin.
That’s where MiCloud, one of this year’s Innovations Awards winners from the Midwestern region, comes in.
Bob McDonough, lead cloud architect for Michigan, said it used to take six weeks to set up a server for any program under development for state agencies. “That was the official line,” he said. “We all chuckled. It never got done that fast.”
The problem, McDonough said, is that staff members had numerous steps to take to set up a server—everything from setting up IP addresses to establishing the server. MiCloud automates many of those tasks and speeds up the process tremendously.
“Authorized requesters go to a webpage and they say I need a server,” McDonough said. “It’s got to have this many CPUs (central processing units), this much memory. It has to be on this network. Thirty minutes later, they have a server. It’s all automated.”
Not only is the process faster, but it’s also considerably cheaper. MiCloud allows customers to set up pay-as-you-go, self-service virtual servers and data storage. Say you receive a huge file and need a large amount of storage space to unzip and extract the files. If it only takes one day, that’s all you pay for. Storage is up to 85 percent cheaper than the least expensive option customers had prior to MiCloud. Servers are 75 percent cheaper.
McDonough said MiCloud has helped make the IT department more attractive for potential employees.
“For recruiting and retention, those tasks I was able to automate are boring,” he said. “… The new guy always gets the boring stuff. What we’ve done here is automate the boring stuff so humans can focus on more rewarding, more challenging, more complex cases. They’re going to do the sexier stuff instead of setting up another server, setting up another server, setting up another server.”
McDonough said more IT options are opening up for state governments, with new commercial cloud computing options coming online in recent weeks. The problem, he noted, is that the sometimes-sensitive data must go outside state government hands and firewalls to use those kinds of services. Keeping the service in-house keeps data more secure.
MiCloud’s biggest impact, McDonough said, is to give state government employees one more option to get work done faster and cheaper than before. In an era where every budget dollar is being scrutinized, that’s good news.
“The Department of Technology, Management and Budget (where the IT service in Michigan is located) has wonderful services for very exotic, super redundant, super hardened services,” he said. “They’re fabulous, but they’re expensive. Not every business problem needs that level of fabulousness.”
With these new “aluminum and tin options, he said, “we’re saying that we recognize there are some business needs that you don’t need the big, fancy stuff for. This is a low-cost alternative better
aligned to how much you think the service is really worth.”