Last year, Florida went live on a statewide private cloud email system for 115,000 mailboxes -- making it possibly the largest such implementation in the country thus far, says state CIO David Taylor. The most unique part about Florida's ongoing implementation: the FBI signed off on the state's planned security approach for protecting its law enforcement data.
Given the security challenges that cities like Pittsburgh and Los Angeles faced in attempts to move law enforcement agencies to the cloud, Florida's ability to do so statewide is impressive. I spoke to Taylor about the Sunshine State's cloud and implementation challenges imposed in this edited transcript.
Why did Florida decide to move all statewide email to the cloud?
We had to provide an email system that would meet the business needs of all executive branch agencies and that would include law enforcement. It had to save the state money over the current cost and it had to eliminate the need for the state to retain its own email staff. When we looked into strategies to do it ourselves, it was very unlikely that we were going to get the one-time appropriation to put the entire infrastructure that we needed to stand up such a massive email system and house 115,000 mailboxes. We really felt that we had to go to a "pay-by-the-drink" model -- a utility model -- and we framed our procurement document around that. When we did that document, we didn't specify [a cloud-based system]. We were perfectly willing for a vendor to come into our own data center, build the environment and turn it over to us. It just turned out that the bidders were focused on a private class solution -- every one of them -- so that's what we ended up with, and it seemed to be a good fit for Florida.
What did that transition entail on the part of IT?
I am a believer that you need to eat your own cooking first before you subject it to anyone else. So my agency went first. It was a pretty smooth transition, though it was not without some problems and some lessons learned. I am on it right now; it runs faster than the old system and I am enjoying it quite a bit.
Being the lead agency, what sort of hiccups and bumps did you come across?
Most of them were related to migrating our old account information over to the new. We were on a shared email system among a bunch of users, and that system had been around for a lot of years. There were many different sets of address lists and distribution lists, and there was a bit of confusion about which of those needed to be moved to the new system and which could be left behind. In some cases, the correct call wasn't made on what to bring over, so we just had to sort that stuff out. It wasn't a failure of the vendor. It was just that we were moving some very complex email systems, and in moving them, you're always going to find some things that you just missed and you have to clean those things up. That was pretty small. We are up and running pretty well and getting ready to migrate the next agencies.