Municipal IT works one of two ways. A city either uses IT resources to innovate and drive business forward, or starves it into a break-fix maintenance role.
Take for example a tech-forward city government like San Francisco, the capital of Silicon Valley, currently in the midst of the #SFWiFi citywide WLAN project by way of a Cisco partnership. Compare that to Detroit, which used unsupported Windows XP until ransomware took hostage the city’s employee records.
Innovate or depreciate; the choice is up to the city. Attitude drives approach more than anything else—regardless of city size and budgetary means. Big city technology gets a lot of attention, but smaller cities are taking a forward-looking approach in deployments as well.
ONTARIO, OREGON (population 12,000) is a fine example of a small city that does it right. An agricultural railway stop on the banks of the Snake River that borders Idaho, Ontario’s IT budget competes with road salt, dam maintenance, and water rights for potato farmers. The citizens and its government are proudly tax-conscious.
Technology is a fine line to walk in a small town
As you might expect, managing municipal technology in Ontario is a one-man operation. Running the show is Kenneth Monson, and he’s knee-deep in a new storage area network (SAN) project at City Hall. Looking at Monson’s IT department, you learn an important truth in municipal IT— a small city doesn’t mean a simple infrastructure. “Small environment, but interesting requirements,” Monson says, a euphemistic characterization of his setup.
There are 80 endpoints in total to manage, but they’re spread out over nine remote locations. Monson’s datacenter consists of five virtual host servers, plus 20 more for applications, storage, and backup. He’s got a 10-gig internal network with eight WLANs to look after, plus 30 city-issued mobile devices. All said, it’s fairly complex for a self-proclaimed “jack of all trades master of none” network architect with a knack for conversational understatement to manage on his own.
Delivering the SAN on time and under budget
With a new SAN rollout you’re scaling up data capacity and refreshing old technology. The hardware costs can be prohibitive, and government procurement orders require extra processing which adds to the turnaround time for sourcing the equipment for the job. For a one-person IT team, it’s critical to plan ahead of time. Failure to plan is planning to fail, as they say, especially when you’re working with a hard-set spending limit.
What the SAN project looks like for Ontario
For Monson’s project, priority one is replacing the core switch, an old HP ProCurve 4208 dating back to 2006. Monson wanted to stick with HPE hardware–he’s familiar with HPE offerings, comfortable with the support; and the rollover processes for updating hardware is well-documented by the vendor. The follow-up to the 4208 series is the HP 5406R modular Ethernet switch.
That HP 5406R fit Ontario’s needs like a well-tailored suit. A 10-gig managed switch with built in redundancy at the PSU for the 24/7 demands on the city network; full-on Layer 3 features, enterprise QoS and security, PoE+ capable, SDN-ready; and best of all, no add-on software licensing. Monson knew that was the hardware he needed. He drafted up an RFQ and sent it around to several vendors, as is standard for governmental purchases.
That’s when Monson, a longtime customer of Newegg.com for his personal PC rigs, got in touch with NeweggBusiness account executive Chris Hiebert. A veteran AE, Hiebert knows the value of a prompt reply to a bid, and had a quote ready inside a half-hour. “Chris came back to us with the best prices by a wide margin; days–weeks in some cases–ahead in getting those prices back to us.”
Leveraging relationships to win business
A good B2B account executive understands that the buyer controls the purchasing cycle. Winning customers means using all the tools at your disposal. Put in enough time in the industry and you build a list of partners for sourcing the hardware your clients need. NeweggBusiness’ Hiebert has nearly two decades of experience serving business IT, so he knows what it takes, and more importantly, who can help.
The HP 5406R switch that Ontario needed was in stock in Newegg warehouses, but AEs like to go the extra mile to provide as much value for the customer as possible. They know it pays off in the long run. So Hiebert put a call into a channel partner and negotiated a lower price point for that particular HP switch. The price helped win the account for NeweggBusiness, and freed up resources for Monson to order other components for his SAN rollout. It’s a win-win situation; the customer stretches their procurement dollar, and it increases the size of the order for the retailer.
As in the sale of any commodity, sourcing IT hardware involves dozens of variables for pricing and availability. In B2B sales, best practice dictates you make the calls, leverage the supplier relationship as much as possible, and deliver the best outcome for the customer. “That’s due diligence in this industry, ” Hiebert says. “That’s how we approach adding value.”
“It did provide an opportunity for us to further our goals,” Monson confirms. “Spending tax-payer dollars responsibly is a matter I do not take lightly; for Chris to come through with what we needed at an excellent value means a lot to us.”
Tips for rolling out new SAN hardware
- Understand the IT needs of each department. Look three to five years ahead to scale wisely; if you’re forced into upgrading ahead of the technology refresh cycle, it is waste of money.
- Know which data belongs in respective storage tiers—frequently accessed files and working copies are placed in Tier 1, and less-used files go to sub-tiers or cold storage archives. Designate any data retained for compliance reasons to archive disk drives.
- Document every specific task allocated to every server before touching anything.
- Document which RAID systems each department has in place. A refresh is a good time to assess whether changes should be considered.
- Investigate if older servers have room left for expansion (PCI-e) before retiring them. That might save some budget.