California city finds success with a database in the cloud

Published: Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The City of Thousand Oaks recently won the "Best of California" award. The recognition identifies the city as an innovator in green IT projects and specifically rewards the local government for its cloud database program, which has managed to foster sustainability efforts within the region. The award was given to the City at the Government Technology Center West.

The database system was custom programmed by a volunteer intern working for the city. The intern, Justin Baker, said he entered the job passionate about using technology to improve government and was able to use this interest to establish four key cloud database applications to support environmental efficiency efforts.

Using the cloud database system, Baker was able to create multiple web applications that helped connect more than 4,000 local businesses to city resources that help them apply for grants and access city resources that can help them achieve sustainability goals. Turning to the cloud helped the City government spend just one-third of what it would have had to invest to create the same applications using more traditional database architectures.

John Brooks, environmental programs senior analyst for the City, explained that the cloud database system has delivered considerable benefits for the government organizations.

"Being able to reduce program costs, improve public services and promote environmental values is a hallmark of good government. We’ve been able to automate systems, accelerate processes, and give citizens a better government experience. This award shows what government agencies can accomplish with innovative cloud technology in spite of reduced resources," said Brooks.

Government organizations are not the only companies that have to find a way to reduce their operating costs while also implementing new technological solutions that help improve operations. Since the end of the recession, the theme of doing more with less has become a rallying cry for businesses working to grow despite the slow pace of economic recovery. This trend is a major contributor to the recent success of cloud computing.

Typically, a new and exciting technology hits the market and starts gaining hype, but then takes years before it can be implemented in most businesses. The maturation process is usually that slow because hardware issues and costs make it hard for companies to transition to new technologies fast. But cloud computing provides an avenue along which organizations can reduce their costs while still fostering innovation. This has meshed so well with what businesses need to do in today's economy that the technology has flourished in an extremely short timeframe.

At the same time as cloud computing has risen to a mainstream technology, data has become much more important to businesses. As a result, companies are increasingly turning to the cloud to meet their database requirements. However, doing this successfully has been somewhat difficult using proprietary solutions, because only some are capable of working with the cloud at all, let alone in the kind of highly-customized environment that is needed by organizations working to align cloud systems with operational needs. As a result, open source database solutions have helped carry the industry into the cloud, providing a framework for innovation that is helping companies get the most out of their database systems.

Open source database solutions give businesses the ability to customize the application to meet their specific requirements. This makes it much easier to align the DB infrastructure with operational needs. At the same time as open source helps improve DB efficiency, the cloud delivers more cost-effective infrastructure.