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State government plans to spend $15 million for the state Department of Information Systems to consolidate data centers for executive branch agencies, with the goal of increasing security and eventually lowering annual costs, a department deputy director told lawmakers Wednesday.

The Arkansas Development Finance Authority will purchase computer equipment and software on behalf of the department, and the two agencies will enter in a lease agreement, authority President Aaron Burkes said in a letter to the state budget administrator, Duncan Baird.

Carder Hawkins, Information Systems' deputy director, said the department hired information technology research and advisory company Gartner Inc. in August 2017 to study the technology infrastructure of executive branch agencies. Gartner outlined a five-year road map for the department to follow.

The road map includes this $15 million expense over the next two to three years, Hawkins told the Legislative Council's Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Subcommittee.

"Basically, over a two-year period, we are going to consolidate data centers from all the executive branch state agencies into two data centers, which is Data Center West, and a [new] co-location data center, " Hawkins said.

The department has a data center in the Multi-Agency Complex west of the state Capitol and Data Center-West in west Little Rock. The consultant recommended that the department shift its assets from the center in the Multi-Agency Complex to the Data Center West and "also secure the co-location site at least 100 miles away," he said.

"Today, our two data centers are only six miles apart, which causes a great risk to the state in case of a natural disaster," Hawkins said.

The consultant found inconsistent security throughout executive branch agencies and that's another reason the consultant recommended consolidating the centers into two data centers, he said.

"There is limited or no disaster recovery. There is a lack of standard, which causes increased costs. There is obsolete or end of life of technology that is being used, which is causing inefficiencies out in the state for our state agencies and for our constituents," Hawkins said.

"Limited economies of scale [are] being deployed right now [and] inconsistent strategies with limited and no automation in some cases in some state agencies," Hawkins said. "Most state agency data centers are small and aging with low resiliency."

With the consultant's road map and this $15 million appropriation that the Development Finance Authority wants the Legislative Council to approve, "we are going to be able to mitigate almost all of those risks and achieve a cost savings after year four of approximately $4 [million] to $5.4 million a year," Hawkins said.

"The biggest thing that we see as a risk to the state is the security issue that is out there and those costs, if we are breached because of the inconsistent standards and inconsistent security, could be quite large," he said.

State government spends nearly $10 million on servers and storage, $7 million of which is spent by agencies inconsistently and without a cohesive strategy, the department said in a document prepared for the subcommittee co-chairmen, Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia, and Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway.

"When all agencies join in a common shared services, the total expenditure can be lowered to $5 [million] annually," the department's document said. State agencies have 2,393 servers and the department has 1,266 servers, and the target date to have all state agencies out of individual data centers is December 2021.

The department will repay the $15 million loan from the authority using payments from agencies.

"We are a cost recovery agency, so everything that we do for agencies, they pay us back," Hawkins said.

Arkansas Code Annotated 15-2-207 12 (A) grants authority to the Finance Authority to loan the Department of Information Systems $15 million, Burkes said after the meeting.

During the meeting, Maloch said that cybersecurity issues "probably keep him up at night more than anything with respect to my employer at a bank." Maloch is vice chairman and general counsel for Farmers Bank and Trust Co. in Magnolia.

He said he assumes that some of the larger cash agencies, such as the state Bank Department, already have pretty good systems in place.

"My concern was just that as we move to this that it doesn't increase their cost, since they are not a general revenue agency and get their fees from their members," Maloch said.

Other state agencies such as the Oil and Gas Commission generate their own fees too, he said.

"But safety and security is the top concern there, and if they have got holes there, we have got to fix it even if it costs more," Maloch said.

Metro on 06/14/2018

Print Headline: State to consolidate data centers; $15M project will boost security, efficiency, lawmakers told

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  • Foghorn
    June 14, 2018 at 7:31 a.m.

    Excellent, far overdue move. The lack of security is appalling and very scary when you consider the massive amount of AR citizen data stored there, unencrypted and unsecured in any way.

  • Slak
    June 14, 2018 at 11:49 a.m.

    You have some insight the rest of us are missing, DB?

  • Slak
    June 14, 2018 at 5:59 p.m.

    Didn't think so.
    That's my professional opinion.