The last frontier has entered a period of transformation with several important initiatives to take a leap even further into the digital frontier. In addition to the enthusiasm for the state’s coordinated efforts to deliver world-class broadband throughout our great state, the Department of Administration’s Office of Information Technology has spent the past two years doing important and thoughtful preliminary work to move the vast majority of state servers and software applications from local data centers and into a cloud environment. By leveraging state-of-the-art facilities, this effort will provide greater security around our citizens’ data, greater resilience and improved reliability, and will rapidly modernize Alaska’s technical infrastructure.
At the most basic level, cloud computing is the provision of computer services remotely. Instead of relying on a server located in our office or data center, cloud computing uses servers hosted in other centralized locations. The State of Alaska has long used cloud-based systems in the form of hundreds of software-as-a-service applications, and the current large-scale project continues and accelerates efforts to leverage the benefits available with cloud computing.
In early 2020, following the decision to modernize, scale and secure state infrastructure with cloud migration, we partnered with industry leaders to assess the best path to take and select a solution consistent with our current environment. . After extensive employee training, we began evaluating individual applications for moving and representative server moving to evaluate their performance.
Because other states have experimented with this one-at-a-time approach, while effective, it can be costly and time-consuming when it comes to evaluating thousands of state servers and programs. During the response to the pandemic, we identified the need to further streamline the process and began looking for a faster or more cost-effective approach that suited our IT needs and goals. Earlier this year, the specific tools needed for such a rapid migration of our systems were made available in our select cloud data centers, setting the stage for full migration.
The cost of delivering on-premise infrastructure has increased since we started this journey and the “Cloud First” strategy is not about matching current capabilities. But instead, it provides a more cost-effective and sustainable view that upgrades our infrastructure to meet the needs and expectations of our citizens by leveraging cutting-edge technologies beyond our current on-site capabilities. With the backing of the legislature, we secured funding in the governor’s 2023 budget, and the large-scale migration project started last month. This project is the culmination of the preparation that has been carried out over the past two years. It involves working closely with industry leaders and technology professionals across all departments of the state.
Migrating to cloud-based servers is an important part of the state’s ongoing work to take full advantage of world-class security capabilities to protect Alaskan data, modernize state information systems, and greatly improve the state’s resilience to unexpected interruptions.
The evolution of cyber security threats requires immense resources to continually update and protect information systems. Migrating to the cloud allows us to maintain strict compliance with the latest security standards. Modern cloud service providers have huge economies of scale that allow them to quickly adapt to the evolving threat, avoiding delays in response.
The state will be able to increase storage and processing without purchasing new hardware, provide dynamic disaster recovery by easily locating backups in various locations, and quickly adjust capacity based on our actual needs. The flexibility inherent in the cloud means less time spent on expensive hardware replacement and more time spent delivering services.
This is an exciting time to work in information technology for the State of Alaska. A greater focus on cloud computing also produces an increase in skills for Alaska State information technology professionals. The use of hybrid cloud environments is common in the modern world and enables professional growth and skill development among the Alaskan state workforce. Our IT professionals will continue to manage and maintain our servers; they will also develop expertise in cloud storage, applications, networking and management solutions. This is a tremendous opportunity for the future of the cyber community and if you are looking for an opportunity to join a cutting-edge team, look to Workplace Alaska for current and future career opportunities.
As we complete the next 18 months of migration, we focus on modernizing the state’s infrastructure to provide even greater security for individual Alaskan data. While it sometimes feels like the transformation can’t happen soon enough, it’s really worth it. Through this far-reaching project, the State of Alaska will see increased security and many other scalability, performance and innovation benefits that come from cloud computing.
Bill Smith is Chief Information Officer for the Alaska State Department of Administration’s Office of Information Technology.
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