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 The ability to scale technology to deliver fast, reliable services to stakeholders is critical for organizations of all shapes and sizes – including government agencies who serve thousands – even millions – of constituents with services every day. King County, located in the state of Washington and encompassing the city of Seattle, serves more than 1.9 million people with fiscally responsible, quality-driven, regional services for healthy, safe, and vibrant communities. Behind the scenes, the King County Department of Information Technology (KCIT) works hard to ensure the government runs as efficiently as possible on a cost-effective infrastructure.

So when King County wanted to streamline government operations and provide better service for its constituents, the King County IT department turned to Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V virtualization technology and System Center 2012 R2 datacenter solutions. We spoke with King County’s Bob Micielli, Manager of Enterprise Services, and Terra Milles, IT Communication Director, to understand how they leveraged Microsoft technology to consolidate their IT to ultimately save $700,000 of tax payer dollars while improving speed, quality and efficiency of the services they provide to King County constituents. Here’s what they had to say.

Q: What was the original business problem you were trying to solve, and why did you choose Windows Server and System Center to solve it?

Bob Micielli: Historically we had an environment that was spread across multiple locations and 28 datacenters. We wanted to consolidate the compute and IT services into one shared infrastructure that would be far more efficient than we were doing with more reliability and scale to meet demands. We chose Windows Server with Hyper-V and System Center because it fit with our existing environment and worked well with what we were already using. We are a big Microsoft shop so it complemented other environments we had in place. The other big thing, besides the integration and standardized platform, was the licensing cost. We were able to save 30 percent in licensing costs compared to other leading vendors. I don’t think people realize the licensing advantage that is there with Microsoft.

Q: How has Windows Server and System Center helped with or enabled a cloud strategy for King County?

Bob Micielli: Our standardized virtualized environment has allowed us to build a private cloud with cost effective infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) capabilities to departments throughout the county. We now have defined service-level agreements (SLAs) and performance metrics for each service and are accountable for achieving them. Using Hyper-V live migration and storage live migration to move multiple, running virtual machines and virtual hard disks between physical hosts or storage locations with no downtime helps to ensure that we meet our SLAs.

Q: What are the key benefits have you experienced by using Windows Server and System Center?

Bob Micielli: One big thing we are excited about is Hyper-V. We are able to stretch our physical environment out to get 35 virtual servers per physical server. It used to take us three months to get a server up and running, now it only takes 48 hours. Now our constituents see new services so much quicker. It has lowered our cost-per-server dramatically and we have saved $700,000 dollars by going from physical to virtualized environments, which results in major savings for tax payers. It’s also much easier to manage and maintain, as there are a lot of things we can do to automate the management of our systems. It’s great for the environment, too, as we use a lot less power to run our environment.

Q: Is there something you are particularly excited about implementing with Windows Server and System Center?

Bob Micielli: With System Center we are in the middle of a project where we stood up an enterprise System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) platform and are in the process of migrating all agency SCCM environments into this platform. This will provide us with one system for desktop management across the county and all of our agencies, which includes over 10,000 desktops. We will see massive efficiency gains as we will be able to manage everything from one location and upgrade all desktops at one time. Really excited to finish this in June.

Q: As a government agency does this choice in technology benefit your constituents as well? If so, how?

Bob Micielli: Our platform now supports all government agencies across the county, everything that it takes to run the government, King County IT provides that. With a more efficient and reliable system we are able to lower the cost of IT, which is passed on to our tax payers. We are also able to keep up with constituent demands, which increase yearly. Just five years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the demand, so modernizing is that much more important.

Terra Milles: In the big picture, standardization and enterprise platforms have allowed us to provide modern services and capabilities that change the way our employees work. The expectation is that we can work online and provide services anytime, anywhere, and on many types of devices. Through our services we have improved our communication, collaboration, and mobility- as those capabilities rely on our standardized enterprise platforms. We have also been able to move toward real-time data-driven decision making, which enables huge advancements in the opportunities and services we can provide to our residents.

Q: Do you have any advice for other government agencies thinking about modernizing their IT?

Bob Micielli: I think people should definitely look at King County as an example of the benefits you can realize with IT modernization in just a short time. Take a look at what we’re doing and replicate it.

Terra Milles: It’s important to remember that technology changes are driven by business and customer needs. Technology has become increasingly more embedded in the services that King County provides and innovations are making technology solutions easier to access and more customizable than ever before.. We have residents that are expecting faster and better customer services with expanded access to services. In an effort to integrate cloud platforms into our service-based culture, we have embraced the cloud across a number of areas, including communications, productivity apps and team collaboration. When we look at the results of modernization, we definitely feel that a cloud strategy was one of the important things we needed to embrace. Looking at the issue holistically and putting platforms in place has been key to our approach for modernization.

Thanks to Bob and Terra for taking the time to talk to us about their success with Windows Server and System Center 2012 R2. To hear more about what’s next for our datacenter products, join us at Ignite or watch online.