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Multicloud Architecture Transforms State Department of Revenue

Move to the cloud enables rapid rollout digital services while optimizing legacy systems

Reshaping infrastructure to support the business

Failing on-premise data centers were preventing a State Department of Revenue from providing other state agencies and taxpayers with innovative digital services.

Flooding, fire and power issues to its data centers had caused major outages for the State. Even when servers were online, the State struggled to deliver services in a timely manner due to siloed infrastructure and a lack of protocols and standards for sharing data. In some cases, critical data held by the State was at risk as a result of some servers operating without a disaster recovery plan.

When 100 servers, 30 network switches and 90 applications across the state were nearing end-of-life or end-of-support, the State seized the opportunity to modernize its data center operations and become a leader in infrastructure modernization and digital transformation.

It decided the time had come to drive bare metal out of its IT footprint. In addition to the costs the State was incurring by being in the data center business, it was clear that an on-prem only approach couldn’t support the digitization of services or inter-departmental digital collaboration.

To digitally transform, the State needed a combination of on-premise, off-premise and public cloud capabilities. It needed a modern multicloud architecture.

How does one get to the cloud?

A move to the public cloud couldn’t happen overnight. Too many of the State’s critical applications weren’t cloud-ready, plus hosting some of its applications in the public cloud didn’t make financial or security sense.

The State picked the Department of Revenue to figure out how to pragmatically move to the cloud.

The Department needed a consistent multicloud strategy that would allow it to put new applications into the public cloud while keeping existing applications on-premise or off-premise as they were refactored for the cloud over time.

WWT filled the role of a trusted advisor for the Department. Possessing a broad range of skills across networking, security, data and analytics, and applications services, we understood the Department’s operational constraints and what was needed to move it forward on its cloud journey.

We leveraged our unique experience, knowledge and the partner ecosystem of the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) to rapidly design and implement a multicloud architecture that achieved the Department’s business outcomes.

6 steps to success

Our six-step journey-to-the-cloud playbook helped the Department implement a multicloud architecture capable of short-term wins and long-term growth.

Step 1: Select a Colocated Data Center

The first order of business was to evaluate on-premise versus off-premise models. It became clear that the digital services the Department wanted to deliver would require an off-premise facility with superior connectivity based on proximity to public cloud providers.

We helped the Department select a colocated data center that not only was operating along the Internet highway, but that had a facility only 30 miles away to reconcile disaster recovery issues.

Step 2: Establish a Private Cloud Beachhead

Next we established a private cloud beachhead within the colocated data center. We advised the Department to purchase Dell EMC VxBlocks based on its workloads.

For management, we suggested the Department implement a VMware virtualized environment to easily direct network traffic to their new off-premise environment or the public cloud. Using the ATC's lab environment, we were able to demonstrate a fully configured VMware Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) stack that included VMware vSphere, VMware vSAN and VMware NSX virtualization technologies.

We trained Department engineers on VMware NSX and the vRealize suite, then provided the necessary configurations for a virtualized private cloud as well as cloud migration services.

Step 3: Extend Networking and Security

After establishing the Department’s private cloud beachhead and setting up a data center management platform, we needed to extend networking and security to the public cloud and back to the data center.

For networking, we suggested the Department use VMware NSX. We trained Department staff on NSX management, again using the capabilities of our ATC.

For security, we suggested the Department choose Palo Alto and configured security protocols for safe application delivery.

Step 4: Establish a Virtual Private Cloud in a Public Cloud

We then helped the Department explore different public cloud providers. With our ATC connected to the major providers, we were able to show the Department how their workloads and management operations would look in Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Based on the results, the Department selected AWS. Our cloud solutions architects examined a well-architected review provided by AWS and made changes to the design. We then re-reviewed to finalize a design that met the Department’s operational needs and business requirements.

Step 5: Consolidate Workloads to a Colocated Data Center and Virtual Private Cloud

In consolidating the Department’s workloads and moving it to a multicloud architecture, we immediately were able to put two new enterprise applications into AWS for document management and processing: Docuware and Kofax. With these applications up and running, the Department could reduce the need to store tax returns on paper and automate the filing process.

The Department’s legacy applications were migrated to its new VMware virtual private cloud running on AWS.

Step 6: Optimize Public Cloud Costs and Build Digital Platforms

As a final step in our cloud journey playbook, we wanted to help the Department get the most out of the public cloud at the best price.

For the Department, this meant helping it move to a database-as-a-service model.

The benefits of multicloud architecture

Equipped with modernized, resilient infrastructure and a consistent multicloud architecture, the Department is already realizing the benefits of its IT and digital transformations.

With IT no longer having to address daily issues with call center operations or major outages, staff have been able to use 10 percent more of their time to call residents who haven’t filed taxes. The ability to proactively engage with delinquent residents has resulted in a $750 million windfall for the Department as a result.

Additionally, with Docuware running in AWS, the Department can stop storing paper tax returns in warehouses. The application will digitize returns moving forward while chipping away at digitizing past filings. Not only is the Department saving costs from having to store paper filings, but customers can now digitally access their returns, a reflection of the State’s IT mission of creating customer-centric, digital services for its residents.

Aside from leveraging new enterprise applications, the Department’s legacy applications are benefiting from increased uptime and can now be accessed by other agencies because they’re housed in a virtual private cloud. And, with a multicloud architecture in place, the Department can begin to refactor legacy applications securely as they gradually push them to the cloud.

Once a prime representative of the State’s outdated approach to IT, the Department of Revenue is now a shining example of how a modern multicloud architecture can enable innovative digital services and help the State achieve its greater IT vision.