Georgia’s Unique Approach

Georgia takes a different approach than most states when it comes to providing technology services.

Since 2009, GTA has offered technology services through a public-private partnership. Using this method, GTA provides a full range of managed network services and IT infrastructure services to 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.” Other states have paid close attention as Georgia has demonstrated a viable alternative to states developing and delivering technology services themselves.

Having now operated more than a decade, 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 addition, in its first 10 years it 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 2020. 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 mainframe, print and mailroom/courier, end user computing, and server services in recent years. The re-procurements reduced overall costs by 20 percent and added several new service providers, while also producing numerous service enhancements. The cost savings allowed for procurement of managed security services as an entirely new service line to address a fast-growing need.

Mainframe Services

IT services company Atos provides mainframe services. Mainframe processing continues at the state's North Atlanta Data Center (NADC). 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.

Print and Mailroom/Courier Services

Xerox has provided print services since the state's shared IT services program began in 2009, and now under a newer contract, the company serves even more state customers in new and expanded ways. The current contract includes 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. The service allows customers to print, package, and mail, all through one provider, leveraging a single, more streamlined process.

End User Computing Services

NTT DATA provides end user computing (EUC) services. Those center 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, and regularly scheduled refreshes of laptop and desktop computers and network printers.

The refresh cycle features automated refresh notifications, self-service scheduling of refresh appointments, and automated reminders and refresh completion acknowledgements. An enhanced EUC hardware depot enables the delivery of most standard EUC catalog items within five business days. Plus, EUC service covers software license management, helping agencies ensure licensing compliance.

Server Services

While physical and virtual servers in the state’s data center continue to be essential, an increasing number of state agencies also capitalize on cloud-based server services. GTA helps support their efforts by offering managed cloud server services. That includes standard, public cloud servers which can be ordered through the state’s IT service catalog and provisioned within as little as one business day. That’s via a new Rapid Server Provisioning process that makes Amazon Web Services (AWS) Windows/Linux servers and Azure Windows/Linux servers quickly available to state agencies.

Service provider Unisys manages the cloud servers parallel to the way it manages physical and virtual servers at the state’s data center. On agencies’ behalf, Unisys also manages the relationship with the cloud provider and then offers related services such as backup, patching, monitoring, virus and malware defense, and technical support as suits an agency’s needs. Once a cloud server is provisioned, additional services may still be needed to make it fully functional, including privileged access, business applications, database services, firewall changes, and others. These can be coordinated through Unisys.

Standardization of server types – whether cloud, virtual or physical – has significantly trimmed delivery time by fashioning new servers from an existing standard blueprint. That tactic, adopted in 2019, also promotes a consistent approach across the state’s IT enterprise by providing common server standards, configurations, and operating systems, with those standards pre-approved by the state’s IT Design Authority Review (DAR). Not every server will qualify for rapid provisioning. Requests for non-standard servers require handling via a streamlined Requirements Gathering and Specialized Solution Request process. There too, efficiency gains are allowing faster delivery times.

Unisys began providing server services within the state’s IT shared services program at the start of 2019. That directly followed expiration of the state’s previous contract with IBM, provider of server services since 2009. Server services encompass server hardware, whether hosted in the state’s data center or elsewhere, along with identity and directory management, disaster recovery, and storage services. The state manages approximately 2,500 servers.

Managed Security Services

In a powerful enhancement to the state’s information security efforts, managed security services became available in 2019 through service provider Atos. See a description of managed security services in the Cybersecurity section of the report beginning on page 13.

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. Provided by AT&T, the services are used by many local governments in addition to state agencies.  Software defined networking (SDN), Internet of Things, and Wi-Fi 6 are currently part of the GTA technology roadmap to help state and local government entities leverage next-generation network services to meet business needs and achieve their goals.

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 SAS 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.

Annual Disaster Recovery (DR) Exercise Held

The state cannot wait for a convenient time to perform a live DR exercise. So, even with all the pressing business brought by COVID-19 in 2020, the Georgia Enterprise Technology Services (GETS) teams resolved to proceed with preparations for the 2020 annual live disaster recovery exercise.  In early October a week-long exercise was completed, ensuring that DR continues to be a GETS priority. A half-dozen agencies participated. GETS server services provider Unisys played a central role, in collaboration with AT&T, Atos, Capgemini and GTA. Technology enhancements allowed growth in GETS DR capabilities, including quicker recovery times and broader testing. In a year where so many activities shifted to virtual, the 2020 exercise provided opportunity to gauge remote recovery abilities, as well as needs for improvements.

GTA Direct

The GTA Direct program provides access to a range of managed IT services for Georgia agencies, local governments, 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 relationships themselves.

In the past year, the program saw several notable developments, and GTA Direct:

  • Continued to provide an efficient procurement process allowing agencies to purchase services from GTA-qualified suppliers that understand regulatory requirements government entities must meet.
  • Increased services sold across the GTA Direct portfolio by 21.3% over the previous year.
  • Implemented a software repository tool that tracks contracts and associated documents.
  • Assisted with COVID-19 response by facilitating discussions between suppliers and agencies to secure call center and remote learning services.
  • Released a request for proposal (RFP) for network services that is on track to expand service types to better serve constituents and incorporate additional suppliers.

 

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 (PSTN) Voice
  • Server and Storage
  • Software Compliance and Software Professional Consulting
  • Telecommunications
  • Unified Communications
  • Wireless Communications Devices and Services