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Science & Technology

Hoping To Save On IT Costs, California Joins The 'Cloud'

Screenshot of CalCloud system.
Screenshot of CalCloud system.

California state agencies and local governments looking for cheaper IT services can now find them … in the “cloud.” The state launched its own cloud computing system Thursday.

Clouds are everywhere these days: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox. Many people use them for storage — like music on iPhones.

“But the more important part for a government is that it’s computing resources,” says California Chief Information Officer Carlos Ramos, whose department just launched the state’s own cloud computing system, CalCloud. It's managed by IBM.

“It’s the processing power to run your systems, to run transactions — whether it’s issuing licenses, determining eligibility, whatever the operation of government is,” Ramos says.

“It’s a general industry trend — in government and in private industry,” Government Technology Magazine editor Steve Towns says. He says clouds let government agencies save money, buying only as much computing power as they need at any given time. “Like buying electricity, kind of, rather than buying a bunch of hardware and software and maintaining it and making it all work.”

California has had some high-profile IT failures — projects that took too long, cost too much or were never even finished. This one, the state says, came in faster than usual and has no start-up costs.

Towns says California appears to have answered a lot of the questions that might be raised about security and cost. “The fact that IBM’s not charging up front to the state, and it will be funded through customers buying into the service, would seem to be a reasonably low-risk way to deploy it,” he says.

To counter security concerns, CalCloud will be housed in the state’s own data centers.

CalCloud will be available not just to state agencies, but local governments as well. The state says more than 20 agencies have already requested IT services.

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