Georgia's Unique Approach

For more than a decade now, GTA has offered technology services through a public-private partnership. It’s a method that allows delivering top-quality services from leading IT companies like AT&T, NTT DATA, Unisys, and others. GTA follows this model to provide a full range of managed network services and IT infrastructure services to a core set of 14 agencies in the state’s executive branch, as well as a la carte services to many other agencies. The managed technology services approach aligns directly with Governor Kemp’s strategic goal to “Expand public-private partnerships and leverage technology to best utilize limited state resources.” Georgia has demonstrated a viable alternative to states developing and delivering technology services themselves, and other states have paid close attention.

The partnership continues to meet its original goals of consolidating IT infrastructure; securing state data and systems; and ensuring a modern, reliable, and recoverable operating environment. In its first 10 years it also produced cost reductions of $379 million, more than double the original estimate.

Over 100,000 workers spread across more than 1,200 state and local government locations received managed network services through the partnership in FY 2021. In addition, the partnership provided 40,000 state workers with IT infrastructure services while hosting 54,000 e-mail accounts and managing 2,500 servers. The state’s storage environment offered 2.5 petabytes of storage space (a petabyte equals one quadrillion bytes).

Georgia uses a cyclical five-stage procurement process to contract for technology services from leading private-sector providers. The resulting plug-and-play model allows for quick response to agencies’ changing business needs. It ensures competitive pricing and a readiness to capitalize on market innovation by regularly rebidding services. It makes it easy to expand the types of services and the number of service providers to meet demand. It’s also easy to replace service providers when warranted. By utilizing the world-class skill set of the selected providers, Georgia is able to stay current with technological progress while containing costs and reducing risk in the state’s IT environment.

To better manage service delivery and ensure consistency, the state applies the same business processes across all technology service providers. A strong governance structure benefits from regular involvement of agencies in defining business needs and in other aspects of the procurement process.

Using the state’s five-stage process, GTA has competitively rebid managed network services, mainframe, print and mailroom/courier, end user computing, and server services in recent years. Reprocurements reduced overall costs and added several new service providers, while also producing numerous service enhancements. Cost savings enabled procurement of managed security services as an entirely new service line to help address fast-growing security needs.

Network Services

Network services, among the state’s most extensive technology offerings, include WAN, LAN, WLAN, telephony, and remote worker access services. Voice services include long distance, business access lines, audio and video conferencing, Centrex, voice over IP, and other telecommunications services. AT&T won a new contract with the state in 2021 and continues to provide network services as it has since the shared IT services program started. These services are used by many local governments in addition to state agencies.

During FY 2021, spurred by widespread remote work across the state’s work force, GTA enhanced the SSL VPN remote access platform which now serves some 40,000 staff. In coordination with AT&T, a new enterprise SSL VPN load balancer solution was implemented to increase the availability of the SSL VPN system.

End User Computing Services

As provider of end user computing (EUC) services, NTT DATA focuses on the computers on state workers’ desks and the technicians who help with any computer problems. EUC also encompasses anti-virus and encryption software, network printers, software license management, and regularly scheduled refreshes of laptop and desktop computers and network printers.

The refresh cycle, so important to the reliability and security of the state’s computing environment, was challenged but undeterred by the abrupt shift to remote work in 2020. In 2021, a much-anticipated self-service EUC refresh option has been introduced that removes need to be in an agency office with a technician to perform the refresh. Both self-service and in-office refresh options continue to feature automated refresh notifications, appointment scheduling, reminders and completion acknowledgements. And complementing the refresh program is an EUC hardware depot that enables delivery of most standard EUC catalog items within five business days.

Other key EUC-related developments during FY 21 include:

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Endpoint software controls what data can be copied to removable devices or controls the devices themselves. It can block devices completely or make them read-only. It provides comprehensive protection for all potential data loss channels, including removable storage devices, the cloud, email, instant messaging, web, printing, clipboard, screen capture, and file sharing applications.

NTT DATA now makes this service available to agencies to gain visibility into data used in the EUC environment and to understand how users and data traverse the network. This equips agency administrators to make informed decisions on how to stop data loss. DLP can also be used for its extensive reporting and investigation features in the event of a data leakage/loss.

Global supply chain issues that arose during the COVID-19 crisis created lingering challenges for delivery of EUC devices such as laptops. NTT DATA has worked on behalf of the state to stay ahead of this. Among other successes, delivery of more than 2,200 laptops to new Department of Public Health contact tracers was achieved.

Server Services

While physical and virtual servers in the state’s data center continue to be essential, increasingly, state agencies also capitalize on cloud-based server services. GTA supports those efforts by offering managed cloud server services. GTA anticipates agencies will further expand their reliance on cloud computing, so GTA is exploring additional cloud service options to address those needs.

Greater flexibility and quicker delivery are among the appeals of cloud computing. Standardization of server types – whether cloud, virtual or physical – has also significantly trimmed delivery time by fashioning new servers from an existing standard blueprint.

In coordination with Unisys, which provides server services within the state’s IT shared services program, GTA complements these offerings with identity and directory management, disaster recovery, and storage services. Identity and Access Management (IAM) refinements continue to be made, and in 2021, the state made real inroads with implementation of multi-factor authentication (MFA) for Microsoft Office 365 services including email. This provides a more secure environment for the state’s Office 365 customers.

GTA, in coordination with Unisys, has also begun offering a Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) solution to GETS agencies. Several are piloting WVD. It uses the Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop product, and Unisys layers on top the integration and management services. Virtual desktop offers a scalable, secure, and productive remote work experience for any device with a modern web browser.

For enhanced ability to backup and restore applications in the Azure service, Unisys has implemented a Commvault Backup Agent server in Azure. This provides agencies the same backup and restore self-service opportunities available in the state’s data center.

In the first half of FY 2021, GTA and Unisys worked with several agencies to introduce chatbots to deal with surging constituent requests for COVID-19 information. The chatbot solutions were delivered very quickly as they leverage cloud provider bot services.

Mainframe Services

IT services company Atos provides mainframe services. Mainframe processing continues at the state's North Atlanta Data Center (NADC), though at lesser volumes as agencies modernize applications and move some off mainframe platforms. Storage and virtual tape systems are also maintained at the NADC, and a backup mainframe environment has been established at an Austin, Texas, data center.

Several critical mainframe software components were upgraded in the last fiscal year. These included the Z/OS operating systems and the Customer Information Control System (CICS), the system that provides online transaction management and connectivity for applications on mainframe systems. The DB2 database system, the ChangeMan version control system, and COBOL programming language on the mainframe were also upgraded.

A newer, more efficient processor was installed, and the Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipelined Stages (MIPS) architecture was re-tooled to suit the workload and reduce cost. 

In close coordination with mainframe users, additional encryption was implemented to enhance security. A mainframe application assessment was completed to build understanding of the longer-term effort to move off the mainframe. And, software no longer needed was removed to save on mainframe costs.

Print and Mailroom/Courier Services

Xerox continues to provide state agencies not only enhanced print services, but also print-to-mail (mailroom) and courier services from the Capitol Hill Mailroom in Atlanta's Twin Towers building. Customers can print, package, and mail, all through one provider and a single, streamlined process.

Xerox works with agencies to optimize and reduce the cost of print services. They’ve collaborated with both the State Accounting Office (SAO) and the Employee’s Retirement System (ERS) to move printing checks and 1099 forms off the mainframe. Similar optimization continues with SAO (W2 forms) and Teacher’s Retirement System (checks, 1099s).

Xerox has also added envelope manufacturing to their services and is developing scanning and other content management services.

Office 365 Services

GTA offers messaging and collaboration services through Microsoft 365 within the Microsoft Government Cloud. GTA’s Office 365 offering provides compliance with federal requirements for cloud services, including FedRAMP High, and requirements for criminal justice and federal tax information systems. These cloud-based SAAS services include Exchange Online, Exchange Online Protection, Microsoft Office 365 applications for the Enterprise, One Drive for Business, Teams, and SharePoint Online. The service supports 54,000 state email accounts and offers state agencies competitive pricing.

Disaster Recovery Exercise

The state cannot wait for a convenient time to perform a live disaster recovery (DR) exercise. So, even with all the pressing business brought by COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, the Georgia Enterprise Technology Services (GETS) teams made substantial improvements to the DR environment and completed a successful 2021 disaster recovery exercise in October. It helps ensure that DR continues to be a GETS priority. Participating agencies in 2021 included the Department of Human Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Administrative Services, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Corrections, and GTA. GETS server services provider Unisys played a central role, in collaboration with GTA and GETS service providers AT&T, Atos, and Capgemini. All recovery objectives were met with recovery accomplished in less time and more completely than in previous years.

GTA Direct Services

The GTA Direct program provides access to a range of managed IT services for Georgia agencies, local governments, public and not-for-profit colleges and universities, and boards of education statewide. GTA qualifies the pool of vendors and provides governance over the service contracts, while agencies purchase the services directly from the providers and manage the vendor relationships themselves.

In the past year, the program saw several notable developments:

  • Continued to provide an efficient procurement process allowing agencies to purchase IT services from GTA-qualified suppliers that understand regulatory requirements government entities must meet.
  • Increased services sold across the GTA Direct portfolio by eight percent over the previous year.
  • Released a request for proposal (RFP) for hosted contact center services that will better serve today’s needs and incorporate additional suppliers.
  • Developed a supplier scorecard to monitor contractual governance across all service offerings.
  • Added 14 new network services contracts while renewing seven existing contracts.
  • Counted among its customers Department of Education, which capitalized on GTA Direct services to provide broadband access for students.

Services offered through GTA Direct include:

  • Broadband Connections
  • Conferencing
  • Data Circuits for Wide Area Networking
  • Dedicated Internet Circuits
  • Disaster Recovery
  • End User Computing
  • Hosted Contact Center
  • Inside Cable/Wiring
  • Mainframe
  • Managed Print
  • Managed Security
  • Managed Wi-Fi
  • Oracle Products and Services
  • Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) Voice
  • Server and Storage
  • Software Compliance and Software Professional Consulting
  • Telecommunications
  • Unified Communications
  • Wireless Communications Devices and Services