Henry, federal chief technology officer and senior director, enterprise technology and application strategies at Treasury Board Secretariat, says most of the approximately $5 billion annual federal IT spend for information technology – which represents expenditures such as distributed computing (desktop) support, data centre operations and network services – goes towards keeping the enterprise up and running.

This year, the federal government is facing a PC refresh cycle, as those machines that had been replaced to deal with the Y2K issue are coming up for retirement.

“Our incremental investment is focused on evergreen and taking advantage of new technologies as they come along, like network consolidation and voice over IP,” he says. “There’s lots of interest in server virtualization, and lots of varying investments in the application layers.”

Henry explains there is no central IT budget for the federal government; IT is a departmental responsibility.

Public Works and Government Services Canada has an IT shared services branch (ITSB), which spends about $650 million a year, or about 13 per cent of the total IT spend.

“If our shared services vision works the way I expect, ITSB could grow to a $2.5 to $3 billion business over the next five to seven years, providing roughly half the IT services for the government,” he says.

The IDC/TIG study, which surveyed 169 government decision-makers last November, found that 30 per cent of respondent are acquiring, piloting or considering investments in VoIP over the next 12 to 18 months.

VOIP opportunities
VoIP, says Henry, not only increases an organization’s flexibility in terms of easily moving, adding or changing employees, but also offers improved call centre capabilities and features. Service Canada is integrating its networks to be able to run voice over IP.

“We look at that as an opportunity to do other network integration,” says Henry. “We’ve already offered some of their services to another department.”

Different departments are interested in voice over IP for different reasons, he says. “Outside the National Capital Region, we might have a Government of Canada building and it will often have a single, shared voice network, but it might have a dozen or more data networks flowing into it, so until we get those data networks converged, voice over IP remains a challenge, which is why the Service Canada evolution is attractive.”

According to the IDC study, service-oriented architecture is second on the public sector IT executive’s wish list. Almost a quarter of respondents said they are acquiring, piloting or considering investments in SOA. “It’s certainly an area of major interest for me,” says Henry. “I really like the model; I like the neutrality of the model and the ability to integrate across traditional silos.”

Henry reports that a number of departments are using Web services-based technology.

According to Alison Brooks, a senior IDC Canada Ltd. analyst with its government practice, vendors need to be more aware of the profound shift towards reusability for reasons of both cost and service provision. SOA, she says, is slowly gaining traction in Canada, “but given the revenue anticipated from adjacent software and corresponding hardware sales that depend on SOA adoption, vendors need to hasten their pace.”

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