Information Technology Infrastructure
The infrastructure side of BOT handles the environments where our applications live and the networks on which our data travels. It covers the computers, phones and standard office software used by Cook County employees. Having a robust and up-to-date technology infrastructure to support Cook County’s workforce and residents is a cornerstone of Cook County’s IT Strategy.
Business Impact Analysis (BIA) and Disaster Recovery (DR)
We are in the process of identifying how resilient the County should be in case of disruptions using various impacts to justify planning efforts such as business continuity plan development and disaster recovery implementation for critical IT systems.
The BIA project identified the impact to Cook County services if an unforeseen, disruptive event were to occur. As part of this project, we reviewed 71 services across 17 agencies and documented our most critical. We prioritized what services need to be immediately restored in case of a major disruption and which services have more flexibility.
The analysis resulted in two key recommendations: creation of a business continuity team to oversee development of our recovery strategy and development of a consolidated DR plan. The next step is to develop and implement business continuity plan for all agencies and continue maintenance of the plan in the long term.
DR plans document the specific processes from each agency needed to recover the critical business services and assets from a natural disaster or system failure. Our team has connected and analyzed what each agency has in place for purposes of disaster recovery and their respective levels of completion. We are now working collaboratively to create a consolidated countywide DR plan that will ensure we have a common and consistent plan to restore County services.
IT Infrastructure Assessment
We are in the process of creating a hosting strategy that will identify the potential benefits for a more unified management of infrastructure, standardized strategies for cloud, virtualization and managed services as well as optimization of vendors/contracts.
The IT Infrastructure Assessment will help us to identify efficiencies for cost savings across the County. It will establish a baseline inventory of current infrastructure assets and contracts that enable our critical services. It entails reviews of infrastructure budgets and overall productivity to identify potential gaps in performance and costs. Results of the assessment will lead to creation of a plan to help realize cost savings through standardization of processes, consolidation of equipment and rationalization in supporting vendors and contracts.
The Bureau of Technology is modernizing its County Core Data Center through hyperconverged technologies. The new infrastructure allows for consolidation of our computing resources. We have further opened the infrastructure to all the other Cook County agencies to offer private cloud services within our data center, increasing the efficiency of our operations and further reducing the County’s carbon footprint.
The number of servers that used to fit in a whole room can now be housed in a couple of racks.
BOT began with hyperconverged infrastructure in September 2017 with a test/dev and DMZ environment. The test/dev allowed us to pilot a nonproduction environment with hyperconverged infrastructures at the operating system level as well as the network level.
Data Center Consolidation
Across several months of 2018, Cook County consolidated its data center footprint from 15 smaller data centers to four main data centers distributed in different part of the county. Through consolidation the county has decreased its carbon footprint and better aligned itself with newer technologies such as hyperconvergence.
Service Desk Consolidation
In September 2018 the Board approved an information technology consolidation report and ordinance. The report recommended a phased consolidation of the “Tier 1” IT help desk support function for all County offices, except the Health and Hospitals System.
The report’s findings came from surveys, interviews and research into operations in the County’s separate IT offices, plus research into governments of similar size and the private sector. The ordinance required a phased approach.
The Bureau of Technology has already consolidated the IT Service Desks of the State’s Attorney (September 2018) and Recorder of Deeds (February 2019). The Assessor’s service desk consolidation will be completed by the end of 2019, completing the service desk consolidation project. Other County Offices such as the Sheriff and Clerk of the Court have begun using the same ticket tracking software as BOT, as well.
Voice over Internet Protocol
Cook County is in year two (2019) of a five-year project to migrate the County’s Legacy telephone System to a Voice over Internet Protocol-enabled Unified Communications platform. The County Health and Hospital System opened a new building in October 2018 which was the first Cook County facility to have only the new telephone system.
What is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a method for using a group of tools to deliver audio or multimedia communications over Internet networks. You may have heard of Broadband phone service, which is a type of VoIP communication. VoIP can be used for audio, video, text messages or even faxing.
The experience of making a phone call via VoIP is the same as any other type of call for the average person. The difference is behind the scenes.
Instead of being transmitted over an old-fashioned circuit-switched network, your voice is transformed into digital information, which is collected into “packets.” These packets pass securely alongside all the other data traversing the County network.
Cook County’s new VoIP solution will enhance collaboration opportunities, reduce costs and ensure compliance with Federal and State laws. It also provides disaster recovery capabilities. The new system will use up-to-date and technologies that enable new application development and allow for future growth. The new VoIP system will integrate with the Countywide automated voice response system that answers and directs calls. It will also integrate with the County’s 911 system.
Why is VOIP Important for Cook County?
- It streamlines the County’s telecommunications operating model.
- It allows us to consolidate our telecommunications and data infrastructure, instead of using separate lines and switches for each.
Cook County’s new VoIP solution will enhance collaboration opportunities, reduce costs and ensure compliance with Federal and State laws. It also provides disaster recovery capabilities. The new system will use up-to-date and technologies that enable new application development and allow for future growth. If an employee must move to a new desk, the employee can just plug in the phone and immediately receive calls. The new VoIP system will integrate with the Countywide automated voice response system that answers and directs calls. It will also integrate with the County’s 911 system.
Wide Area Network
The Bureau of Technology manages the Wide Area Network (WAN) for all Cook County’s separate offices. In 2019 Cook County began a three-year project to migrate the backbone of the County WAN from an obsolete AT&T SONET transport facility to Metro Ethernet.
Business drivers include:
- Impending obsolescence: The current legacy SONET backbone will be “sunsetted” by the carrier in the coming decade, as they migrate from TDM to an all I.P. carrier network backbone.
- Bandwidth Demands: The explosion of video, mobility, wireless, cloud computing, cloud hosting, cloud back-ups and document scanning, all place a greater demand on Bandwidth. Cisco forecasts that Bandwidth demands will grow 20 percent annually through 2019. The available bandwidth in the core is not Gig speed, and bandwidth to most remote sites is only 1.5MBPS.
Migration of the legacy Carrier SONET services to Metro Ethernet and aggregation to the new 10G Broadband nodes will assist the cost per bandwidth and improve services to agencies and municipalities, enabling edge technologies such as video, mobility, cloud hosting, image scanning and more. The key benefits of Metro Ethernet are simplicity, flexibility, and scalability.
Wi-fi in the Courts
A common complaint from residents visiting the courts or performing jury duty was the lack of wireless internet access. In a staggered release spanning 2017 and 2018, the Bureau of Technology successfully blanketed the County’s 18 court facilities with free public wi-fi.