The Last Frontier has entered a period of transformation with several major initiatives to jump even further into the digital frontier. In addition to the excitement of the state’s coordinated efforts to deliver world-class broadband to our great state, the Department of Administration’s Office of Information Technology has spent the past two years executing extensive and thoughtful preliminary work to move the vast majority of state servers. and software applications outside of local data centers and in a cloud environment. By leveraging state-of-the-art facilities, this effort will provide increased security around our citizens’ data, greater resiliency and reliability, and rapidly modernize Alaska’s technical infrastructure.
At the most basic level, cloud computing is the provision of remote computing services. Instead of relying on a server that is in our office or data center, cloud computing uses servers hosted in other centralized locations. The State of Alaska has a long history of using cloud-based systems in the form of hundreds of software-as-a-service applications, and the current large-scale project is continuing and accelerating efforts to leverage the benefits available with cloud computing.
In early 2020, following the decision to modernize, scale and secure the state’s infrastructure with cloud migration, we partnered with industry leaders to assess the best path forward and select a solution consistent with our current environment. After extensive employee training, we began evaluating individual move and move requests from representative servers to gauge their performance.
As other states have experienced, this “one at a time” approach, while effective, can be costly and time-consuming when evaluating thousands of state servers and programs. . In the midst of the pandemic response, we identified the need to further optimize the process and began looking for a faster or more cost effective approach that would be well suited to our IT needs and goals. Earlier this year, the specific tools necessary for such a rapid migration of our systems were made available in our selected cloud data centers, paving the way for the full migration.
The cost of delivering on-premises infrastructure has increased since we started this journey, and the “Cloud First” strategy is not about matching current capabilities. But instead offers a more cost-effective and sustainable vision that enhances our infrastructure to meet the needs and expectations of our citizens by leveraging advanced technologies beyond our current on-site capabilities. With the support of the Legislature, we secured funding in the Governor’s Budget 2023 and the Large Scale Migration Project was launched last month. This project is the culmination of the preparation that has been accomplished over the past two years. This involves a close partnership with industry leaders and technology professionals in every state department.
The migration to cloud-based servers is an important part of the state’s ongoing work to take full advantage of world-class security features to protect Alaskans’ data, modernize state IT systems, and dramatically improve the state’s resilience to unexpected disruptions.
Evolving cybersecurity threats require immense resources to continuously update and protect IT systems. Migrating to the cloud allows us to maintain strict compliance with the latest security standards. Modern cloud providers enjoy huge economies of scale that allow them to quickly adapt to changing threats, avoiding response delays.
The state will be able to increase storage and computing without purchasing new hardware, provide dynamic disaster recovery by easily locating backups in various locations, and quickly adjust capacity based on our real needs. The inherent flexibility of the cloud means less time spent on costly hardware replacement and more time spent delivering services.
It’s an exciting time to work in Information Technology for the State of Alaska. An increased focus on cloud computing is also producing an increase in skills for information technology professionals in the state of Alaska. The use of hybrid cloud environments is common in the modern world and enables professional growth and skill development among the state of Alaska’s workforce. Our IT professionals will continue to manage and maintain our servers; they will also develop a skill set in cloud storage, application, networking and management solutions. This is an incredible opportunity for the future of the cyber community and if you are looking for an opportunity to join a state-of-the-art team, please look at Workplace Alaska for current and future career opportunities.
As we complete the next 18 months of migration, we are focused on modernizing the state’s infrastructure to provide even greater security for the individual data of Alaskans. Although it sometimes seems like the transformation can’t happen soon enough, it’s definitely worth it. Through this massive project, the State of Alaska will benefit from enhanced security as well as many other scale, performance, and innovation benefits associated with cloud computing.
Bill Smith is Chief Information Officer for the Alaska Department of State Administration’s Office of Information Technology.
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