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Cloud Expo: Article

Standardizing and Centralizing Data Assets

Providing IT managers & commissioners visibility into software development activities across the enterprise of state government

I was asked by Mr. Peter Hastings (NH DoIT Commissioner) to document the benefits and activities behind the Standardization and Centralization Initiative (SACI). This initiative concerns the standardization of the software configuration management tool, defect tracking tool and standardizing production compiles across the enterprise of state government. In addition this includes the storage of assets for disaster recovery purposes, securing and controlling state source data assets, intellectual property and mission-critical data assets across the enterprise of state government.

This article will cover how the State of NH is working to save money in efficiencies related to standardizing and centralizing state data assets. Every state wants to save money for its citizens and stakeholders but saving money in state government can be a very challenging task. The fact that every agency in state government is basically its own separate entity makes this even more difficult. Initiatives of this size and scope can be complicated to implement if agencies don't understand the value and don't feel the need to cooperate or collaborate to achieve success and understand that the savings is in their best interest. In today's economy no one wants to spend any money to achieve any savings to begin with because they don't have the money to make any capital investments.

Attempting to standardize any process, tool or initiative across the enterprise of state government is no easy task. The Standardization and Centralization Initiative (SACI) is no exception. This project standardizes the Software Configuration Management (SCM) tool across the entire enterprise of state government, secures, controls and centralizes all state source data assets, intellectual property and mission-critical assets for state government and for disaster recovery purposes, meeting the Federal COOP requirements as set forth by Homeland Security.

To introduce a directive of this magnitude speaks to the courage of Commissioner Peter Hastings for taking on such a challenging initiative across the enterprise of state government. You need a leader who can communicate effectively to the agency heads that there is value in this initiative that will ultimately lead to savings across the enterprise. The State of NH will receive many benefits from this initiative and there have been many hurdles to achieving such a huge undertaking. This initiative reflects the understanding of Commissioner Peter Hastings to address enterprise-wide level inconsistencies that cost the State of NH money and realize a cost savings instead.

This initiative establishes a centralized virtualized repository environment for all state software assets. It standardizes the Software Configuration Management (SCM) tool, Defect Tracking tool and formalizes production compiles across the enterprise. This initiative set in motion by Commissioner Peter Hastings at the State of NH is transforming state government software development activities across the enterprise of state government thereby streamlining processes and saving resources, time and money for the citizens of NH and the stakeholders of state government software development activities. I don't see any initiative like this taking place or being tackled anywhere else in the country on a state level and over the long term this will potentially save the State of NH perhaps millions of dollars.

Business Problem and Solution
Prior to the implementation of the SACI (Standardization and Centralization Initiative), state source data assets were spread across the enterprise of state government anywhere and everywhere. No one really knew where all the assets were truly located. State developers would leave for other opportunities and managers would hire a new developer and not be able to point the developer to the latest greatest application source assets for a specific project. Some developers were storing assets on their local drives, others on shared drives and no one knew where they were placed. Others stored these valuable assets on CDs and DVDs, which could be lost, and local drives, which can crash, and assets would be misplaced and lost. This resulted in a lot of state money being expended to re-create these assets again.

Let's just say a lot of state resources, time and money can be wasted this way: lost code, overwritten code, deleted files, no source code control, restores of assets and many flavors of other types of source code control tools contained within a silo across the enterprise. This can apply really to any organization.

Commissioner Peter Hastings realized quickly once becoming Commissioner that if he standardized and centralized all of the state's assets - whether they be source data assets of application source code, intellectual property related to applications that are supported inside and outside of state government, and secured and controlled state mission-critical assets in a centralized repository - that this would save the state a lot of money.

Commissioner Peter Hastings provided a directive to implement the Standardization and Centralization Initiative (SACI) and save money on activities related to software development and transform state government with more status accounting of software development activities across the enterprise of state government. There is visibility into software development activities that did not exist before this initiative.

The direction was to place all existing physical servers housing software assets and software developers across the enterprise in a virtual environment on one server and on one standard tool across the enterprise to centralize the state source data assets, intellectual property and mission-critical assets.

There is a cost savings to the state with this initiative alone with fewer software configuration management (SCM) servers in technical support and electricity and a myriad of other savings I'll speak to later. This initiative would centralize and standardize the users, licenses, assets and support across the enterprise for software development activities.

Improvement to Government
Intellectual property is a valuable commodity and it needs to be secured and controlled. The Federal government realizes this as well with some of the problems experienced with NSA securing metadata for the gathering program for phone calls, emails, etc. Standardizing tools and centralizing assets to reduce cost and streamline software development activities makes sense on so many levels (reduction in support, fewer physical SCM servers to maintain and support, less electricity, less software to install, fewer operating systems to maintain, fewer servers to back-up, easier to maintain SCM licenses, less of a learning curve for developers from one state agency to another on an SCM tool, more formalized development, more disciplined development, status accounting now available on software development activities, common code library can be shared to reuse code, future upgrades to the clients are easier, standard defect tracking being used which is centralized, etc.). All these savings add up and benefit state government in managing the cost of software development activities.

In addition when all users are in a centralized virtual environment the cloud concept can now be applied from within the standardized Software Configuration Management (SCM) tool to reuse common functionality code across the enterprise. A common code library for common functionalities between agencies across the enterprise can be set up and code that could be shared, reused, understood can all be under the secure umbrella of SCM.

Standardizing the Software Configuration Management tool allows groups to be created that have certain levels of access all the way down to a process or a file. It's easier to allow some teams or many teams to browse this library of shared common code. It also educates other teams on how one team versus another might be developing common functionalities. It can save the state money rather than reinventing the wheel on common functionalities already written by another development team.

This initiative saves the state resources, time and money on development activities:

  1. All state source data assets are centralized - diminishes the overhead of physical support.
  2. All processes are standardized by the use of one product to support multiple platforms. When a tool has a generic repository that houses any type of data asset any development platform can be secured and controlled. In large organization there can be legacy platforms that have to be sustained sometimes for years and a generic repository supports that effort.
  3. Allows movement of a developer from one project to another with more flexibility.
  4. Common functionality libraries can be set up for all development platforms (Visual Studio, PowerBuilder, Java, etc.) so that all developers can have access to reusable code under a SCM secure umbrella.
  5. Provides transparency to all managers with a view into a life cycle as to what developers are working on in any SCM State across the enterprise of State government.

Many large organizations have too many varying methods, tools, and processes and this creates silos of development, which overall is counterproductive to the whole. This makes it harder to not only know what the team(s) are doing or developing in or have access to or to interchange that skill set with another development team.

When all developers are using the same tool they can easily be provided access to another project via the secure cloud of the standardized SCM tool and work any project and have a much smaller learning curve by not leaving the development environment but seeing a new project in their view in the SCM tool.

When all users/developers are on one server that contains all the licenses for the tool and the assets are centralized and the SCM tool is standardized, the state can save money in various ways on activities related to software development and transform state government with more status accounting and visibility into software development not only for state developers but contractors as well.

The following is a list of the benefits of this project to State Government: Standardization and Centralization Imitative (SACI):

Benefits of the Project:

  1. This project will standardize the state's Software Configuration Management (SCM) Tool so that one product is being used by all agencies and this will save the state time, money and resources by having one tool across the enterprise to support.
  2. Provides the state with a smaller learning curve from software development team to software development team across the enterprise and allows software developers to save time by not learning a different tool from agency to agency. This allows for more focus on software development activities for application development.
  3. Allows for cloud software development to occur in a secure umbrella of SCM and allows for reuse of source code to save the State time, money and ultimately resources on software development activities. Prevents re-inventing the wheel on common functionalities.
  4. Allows for software developers to be interchanged between agencies more easily without the need to learn a new SCM tool for software configuration management activities.
  5. Precludes lost source code (source data assets, intellectual property, mission-critical assets) from agency to agency that saves the State time, money and resources over the long term.
  6. This will save the state money on electricity as well because all software developers will be on one virtual server versus three or four physical servers. Power consumption is a big deal with servers. It takes a great deal of energy to keep them cool and running.
  7. This will save the State money in terms of manpower as well with only one virtual server to maintain and back-up and one operating system to maintain and support rather than three or four.
  8. Saves the state money with all state data assets, intellectual property and mission critical assets centrally located rather than spread out all over the place across the enterprise.
  9. This methodology allows for better control of disaster recovery to meet Federal COOP requirements across the enterprise when it concerns State source data assets and intellectual property. These requirements are set up by Homeland Security to maintain business continuity.
  10. This allows state managers more visibility into software development activities and allows for better time management of these resources. It removes the silo effect.
  11. Standardize Defect Tracking for all state agencies so that one tool is used across the enterprise for all reporting against application development. This centralizes reporting.
  12. Standardize production compilations so that compilations and debugging issues are minimized across the enterprise for software development activities.
  13. When contractors use our standardized tool we have greater insight into their software development activities and at least have the assets secured and controlled within state government.
  14. When contractors use our standardized tool and house the State assets within our infrastructure it allows State software developers to shadow contractors and parallel the contractors work so that when the contract is complete State staff can sustain the application. This saves the State money because state staff can do the work cheaper than contractors.
  15. Harvest SCM integrates with all the software development platforms that we use here at the State today even legacy applications. So, one tool rather than a myriad of tools can perform the task of SCM and this saves the State time and money with only one tool to support across the enterprise and it takes only two people to support the entire infrastructure across the enterprise.

The final result is one virtual software development server, which would include intellectual property of various types (application code - VS, PB, Java, docs, etc., or Oracle code, SQL code, Access, etc.) and mission-critical assets.

In Summary
What will have been achieved across the enterprise:

  1. Centralized State Data Assets across the Enterprise of State Government
  2. Centralized Data Asset Repositories
  3. Standardize Software Configuration Management (SCM) Tool
  4. Standardize Application Compilers - OpenMake
  5. Standardize Defect Tracking System
  6. Created Common Code Library for Common Functionalities
  7. Provide Status Accounting and Auditing of SCM projects
  8. Provide IT Managers and Commissioners visibility into Software Development Activities across the Enterprise of State Government

It's difficult to measure these savings in terms of real dollars today (ROI) but the savings can be measured by the streamlining of software development activities across the enterprise. The increased efficiency and quality improvements as well as a reduction of errors and or duplicative efforts are the real payback to this initiative.

My background is that I have been working in Software Configuration Management (SCM) for a few years now and I am presently, the administrator of SCM at the State of NH. SCM is a process-based Software Configuration Management (SCM) tool for managing application source code, intellectual property and mission critical assets. In this capacity I also secure these assets for disaster recovery purposes. I manage 400 plus applications housed in SCM and support 400 users using the product. The development tools we currently use are PowerBuilder PBV8, PBV11 and 12; Visual Studio 2003, 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012; Eclipse, Juno, RAD, Mule, Cold Fusion, Java, COBOL and VB.

As the Software Configuration Manager (SCM), I provide the administration of the source code management tool. This includes the entire infrastructure of the environment for development, developing life cycles, providing best practices, procedures, processes, documentation; defect tracking, disaster recovery, maintaining build machines and the training of all the developers on proper source code management using the development tools in our development environment.

More Stories By Al Soucy

Al Soucy is software configuration manager at the State of New Hampshire's Department of Information Technology (DoIT). In that role Al manages software configuration for dozens of PowerBuilder applications as well as applications written in Java, .NET, and COBOL (yes, COBOL). Al plays bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric rhythm/lead guitar, drums, mandolin, keyboard; he sings lead and back up vocals and he has released 8 CDs.

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