Edmonton Heads for the Cloud

I’m confident that somewhere in Canada, some resource strapped innovative small town has abandoned desktop software and uses a cloud based service but so far no city of any real size has even publicly said they were considering the possibility.

That is, until today.

Looks like Edmonton’s IT group – which is not just one of the most forward looking in the country continues to make the rubber hit the road – is moving its email and office suite to the cloud. (I’ve posted the entire doc below since it isn’t easy to link to)

They aren’t the first city in the world to do this: Washington D.C., Orlando and Los Angeles have all moved to Google apps (in each case displacing Microsoft Office) but they are the first in Canada – a country not known for its risk taking IT departments.

I can imagine that a lot government IT people will be watching closely. And that’s too bad. There is far too much watching in Canada when there could be a lot of innovating and saving. While some will site LA’s bumpy transition, Orlando’s and DC’s were relatively smooth and are still cities that are far larger than most of their Canadian counterparts. LA is more akin to transitioning a province (or Toronto). Nobody else get’s that pass.

Two things:

1) I’ve highlighted what I think is some of the interesting points in the document being presented to council.

2) A lot of IT staff in other cities will claim that it is “too early” to know if this is going to work.

People. Wake up. It is really hard to imagine you won’t be moving to the cloud at some point in the VERY near future. I frankly don’t care which cloud solution you choose (Google vs. Microsoft) that choice is less important than actually making the move. Is Edmonton taking some risks? Yes. But it is also going to be the first city to learn the lessons, change its job descriptions, work flows, processes and the zillion other things that will come out of this. This means they’ll have a cost and productivity advantage over other cities as they play catch up. And I suspect, that there will never be a catch up, as Edmonton will already be doing the next obvious thing.

If your a IT person in a city, the question is no longer, do you lead or follow. It is merely, how far behind are you going to be comfortable being?

6. 13

Workspace Edmonton

Sole Source Agreement

Recommendation:

That, subject to the necessary funding being made available, Administration enter into a sole source agreement, in an amount not exceeding $5 million, and a period not exceeding five years, with Google Inc., for the provision of computing productivity tools, and that the contract be in form and content acceptable to the City Manager.

Report Summary

The IT Branch undertook a technical assessment of seven options for the delivery of desktop productivity tools. Software as a Service (‘cloud computing’) was identified as the preferred direction as it allows the corporation to work from anytime, place or device. Google Mail and Google Apps were determined to provide the best solution. The change will ensure ongoing sustainability of the services, provides opportunities for service and productivity gains, and align IT services with key principles in The Way We Green, The Way We Live and The Way We Move.

Report

The City Administration Bylaw 12005 requires approval from Executive Committee for Single Source Contracts (contracts to be awarded without tendering) in excess of $500,000, and those contracts that may exceed ten years in duration.

The Workspace Edmonton Program consists of two initiatives, which will allow the delivery of information technology software and services to employees, contractors and third party partners anytime and place, and on any device. In order to accomplish this the administration is proposing moving away from a model where software is installed on every computer to a solution where the software is housed on the internet (‘cloud computing’).

Administration is recommending the implementation of Google Apps Premier Edition as the primary computing productivity tool, with targeted use of Microsoft Office and SharePoint. The recommended direction will allow the City to move to Google Mail as the corporate messaging tool and Google Apps as the primary office productivity tools. It will also allow the corporation access to other applications offered by Google Inc. and partners to Google Inc. Microsoft Office and SharePoint will remain as the secondary office productivity tools for business areas that require these applications for specific business needs. Use of the Microsoft tools will require completion of the appropriate use case and approval by the Chief Information Officer.

Administration is requesting approval to proceed to negotiation of a contract with Google Inc. The sole source agreement is required at this time to allow the program to be developed in 2011. This is foundational work that will allow the program to proceed to implementation in 2012. The contract is also required in order to complete the Privacy Impact Assessment and develop implementation plans.

Benefits

Workspace Edmonton creates the opportunity for the City of Edmonton to significantly change the way we work. Administration will have increased options for delivering services to citizens, including enhanced mobile field services and new opportunities for community consultation and collaboration. The consumer version of Google is free to private citizens and not-for-profit groups and would allow additional options for collaboration with organizations such as community leagues with no net cost to the corporation or organization.

The move to G-Mail will allow the corporation to extend email access to all city employees, improving access to information and communications. It will also allow for implementation of a number of services without additional licensing costs, including:

  • audio and video chat
  • group sites to allow improved collaboration with external
    partners and community groups
  • internal Youtube for training and information sharing
  • increased collaboration through document sharing and simultaneous authoring capabilities

The program presents the opportunity for the City to better address the expectations of the next generation of workers by providing options to bring your device and to work with software many already use. Both Edmonton Public Schools and the University of Alberta have implemented Google Apps.

In addition, the implementation of Google Apps will include an e-records
solution for documents stored in Google Apps. This will be implemented in partnership with the Office of the City Clerk. The benefit of this being alignment with legislated and corporate requirements for records retention, retrieval, and disposal.

Moving to the Software as a Service Model (‘cloud computing’) through the internet will avoid additional hardware and support costs associated with increased service demands due to growth. This solution provides a more sustainable business model, reducing demands on resources for regular product upgrades and services support. Finally, the relocation of software and data to multiple secure data centres facilitates continuation of services during emergencies such as natural disasters and pandemics. City employees will be able to access email and documents through the internet from any office or home computer.

Solution Assessments

The IT Branch undertook a technical assessment of seven office productivity software and service delivery options. A financial assessment of the top three options was subsequently completed and the recommended direction to move to Google Inc. as the service provider was based on these assessments. Following this, the IT Branch undertook a security assessment to ensure the option chosen met security requirements and industry standards. A Privacy Impact Assessment has been initiated and will be completed upon negotiation of an agreement. Precedent in Alberta has been set with both the Edmonton Public School Board and the University of Alberta entering into agreements with Google Inc.

Strategic Direction

The Workspace Edmonton Program supports Council’s strategic direction for innovation and a well managed city, as well as key principles in The Way We Green, The Way We Move, and the Way We Live.

Budget/Financial Implications

Google Messaging and Apps will replace the existing Microsoft Exchange and majority of Office licenses. The funding currently in place for Microsoft license maintenance will be sufficient to fund the annual Google services.

2011 funding for the implementation of overall Workspace Edmonton Program is within the current IT budgets and will be the source of funding. Funding for 2012 will be included in the 2012 budget request.    A business case for this initiative was completed and is available for review.

The Workspace Edmonton model aligns with and complements the corporate initiative of Transforming Edmonton. The administration will look for opportunities to integrate the programs and utilize a portion of the funding for Transforming Edmonton to fund Workspace Edmonton change and transition requirements.

Risks

If the recommendation is not supported, Workspace Edmonton will stop and the corporation will be required to either go to Request For Proposal or remain on the existing platform. Remaining on the existing platform will require additional funding in future years to support continued maintenance costs and future growth. (Extending email only to city staff who do not currently have email accounts would cost the corporation approximately $900,000 per year with the existing solution.) Delaying the implementation to 2012 would result in delays to return on investment and achievement of the benefits.

Justification of Recommendation
Technical, financial and security assessments have been completed. The recommended solution meets business requirements, provides opportunities to increase and improve service delivery and is projected to garner a return on investment within 18 to 24 months of implementation. Approval of this recommendation will allow Administration to proceed to negotiation of a contract.

Others Reviewing this Report
• L. Rosen, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

WRITTEN BY – D. Kronewitt-Martin | August 24, 2011 – Corporate Services 2011COT006

6 thoughts on “Edmonton Heads for the Cloud

  1. Kevin Bowers

    David one of the issues that all Canadian governments (and Canadian citizens) need to be concerned with with cloud solutions is the US Patriot act and implications for protection of Canadian citizen’s personal information.  In British Columbia this concern led the provincial government in 2004 to enact Bill 73 which restricts storage of personal information outside of Canada.  This bill has effectively killed any opportunities in BC for municipalities or other public sector organizations to follow Edmonton’s lead.  Microsoft I know in the past has considered the opening data centres in Canada to address this concern, but because the Patriot act can reach across the border into Canada if the company that owns the data centre is US based, it is not an easy problem for them to address.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    “Extending email only to city staff who do not currently have email accounts would cost the corporation approximately $900,000 per year with the existing solution.” Wow! I wonder how much that works out to per staff member. Insane.

    Reply
  3. Herb Lainchbury

    Linux is truly becoming mainstream, though perhaps not in the way we imagined it might.  

    The US Patriot Act definitely puts non-US governments in a spot.  I completely understand the economics and the value of this move by Edmonton but am actually amazed that they are making it because of the implications of the Act.

    With the Government of Canada’s recent announcement of closing down hundreds of data centres, and the large sums of our money that governments in general spend on closed software I can’t help but think that we would be better off as citizens if we re-thought our government procurement policies to take into account the advantages of funding organizations that create great free software that the entire world can use rather than buying or building closed software.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Privacy Matters: Canadian schools using Google Cloud services – Canada Cloud

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