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Solution Case Study

Florida State Government Saves Millions Through Software Development Overhaul

Company: Florida Department of State Company Website: Company Size: 450 employees Country or Region: United States Industry: GovernmentRegional/state Company Profile The Tallahassee-based Florida Department of State handles cultural affairs, elections, historical resources, corporations, and library and information services for Floridas more than 19 million citizens. Business Situation The Department of State used outdated software systems to manage many of its core functions, making it difficult for IT staff to respond to legal changes and new business needs. Solution The department standardized on the Microsoft .NET Framework, Microsoft Visual Studio 2012, and the Windows Azure platform to modernize its systems and support application lifecycle management. Benefits Greater responsiveness to business needs Millions of dollars of cost savings Continuous application delivery for dramatically reduced cycle times Higher-quality code Improved developer satisfaction

In the past, we could not even research and write the purchase order for a software solution in the same time that we now develop, test, and deliver oneand we can do it without spending $1 million.
Larry Aultman, Chief Information Officer, Florida Department of State

The Florida Department of State (DOS) decided to replace outdated software such as an Oracle database with Microsoft SQL Server, modernize its voter registration application to create a direct-to-consumer, Internet-scale application, and apply new development practicesall to better serve changing business requirements and cost-effectively scale to meet applicationdelivery demands. By using Microsoft Visual Studio 2012, the Microsoft .NET Framework development environment, and the Windows Azure platform, the DOS takes advantage of modernized application lifecycle management and integration with Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Service in the cloud. Beyond saving millions of dollars in licensing costs, the department now can quickly create modern systems, provide transparent data for use by its citizens, attract top developer talent, and retain happier, more productive developers.

Aligning our department with Microsoft technologies and using Microsoft development tools and cloud capabilities saves us money, time, debugging, and overall headache.
Larry Aultman, Chief Information Officer, Florida Department of State


Florida citizens, counties, and state agencies rely on the Florida Department of State for many important services, from election resources to library services. The Department of State (DOS) has 450 employees in six divisions: Corporations, Cultural Affairs, Elections, Historical Resources, Library and Information Services, and Administrative Services, which provides IT, operations, purchasing, and human resource services to the other five divisions. Before the Division of Administrative Services existed, each of the five divisions maintained its own IT staff and technology systems. To achieve operational efficiencies and conserve costs, the DOS created the Division of Administrative Services to eliminate overlap and take advantage of economies of scale. The DOS hired Larry Aultman as Chief Information Officer, tasking him with ensuring that the Florida voter registration system would remain problem-free throughout the upcoming 2012 election season. Aultman also sought to streamline other systems and processes to create an enterprise-grade environment where all divisions could reuse IT services. After auditing each departments applications and needs in 2011, Aultman learned many key systems were written in older development languages, from COBOL to C, hampering its ability to move at a modern pace. State regulations change all the time, but we couldnt easily alter our applications to reflect those changes, says Aultman. Plus, the systems were so outdated that we lacked proper disaster recovery capabilities and the ability to give our citizens the kind of online access that they expect today. The states voter registration system in its Division of Elections serves as the clearinghouse for all 67 Florida counties lists of registered voters, tracking them as

they move between counties and in and out of the state. Although the system had not previously experienced any failures, it was aged and posed risks for the upcoming 2012 primary and general election. The system used IBM WebSphere parts and an Oracle database, and it had few controls or standards related to data delivery. Rework needed to be done swiftly, since the Republican primary would be held in January 2012, with the general election the following November. We started in June 2011, so we had to find solutions that we could quickly implement and that made development efficient in order to get the job done and done well, recalls Aultman. And the voter registration system was only the first of many in need of improvement.


To upgrade the voter registration system along with other applications, the DOS set out to revamp its development tools and processes, standardizing wherever possible to streamline development and maintenance. The Right Development Resources An internal survey of the five business divisions showed that, along with some vendor-supplied software, the majority of applications were based on Java and various versions of the Microsoft .NET Framework development environment. Given our timeline, budget, and talent pool, I didnt consider anything but Microsoft technologies for our overhaul they were the obvious choice, says Aultman. The DOS implemented the then-current version of the .NET FrameworkMicrosoft .NET Framework 4to give its developers the newest set of tools and widest capabilities. Choosing to standardize on .NET also made business sense from a staffing perspective. Wed have had to pay a premium to import experienced

Giving our developers flexible, integrated, easy-to-use tools from Microsoft makes it possible for us to better accommodate the constant changes triggered by new laws and regulations.
Larry Aultman, Chief Information Officer, Florida Department of State

developers from further away if wed gone with another platform, but our local labor pool has a strong .NET base, making the talent we need available and affordable, says Aultman. To make best use of the .NET environment, the department initially implemented Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and is upgrading to Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 as of April 2013. Among the many new capabilities in Visual Studio 2012 that Aultman and his staff appreciate are the advanced load-testing capabilities and IntelliSense features, which minimize errors as developers build and test applications. Its hard to point to only one favorable aspect of Visual Studioits the capabilities all working so seamlessly together that makes such a positive difference for us, says Aultman. By focusing on continuous improvement, the DOS is using current tools such as Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Service to help manage the buildautomation aspects of its development. Like a company manufacturing and selling in the consumer world, were set to continually improve the departments lineof-business applications, running everything back through the automated compile, build, and test processes to keep our systems up-to-date and avoid the major, costly modernization efforts it would take if we let them fall many years behind, says Aultman. This shift in thinking prompted the department to adopt a different way of writing all its applications, with a deeper connection between business needs and application structure. Aultman determined that it was time to embrace cloud services to meet the departments objectives. I recognized that Windows Azure would make it possible for our developers to begin coding immediately and skip the potentially timeconsuming provisioning and initial testing

phases, says Aultman. By using Windows Azure, we could not only accelerate development, but do it while providing a high level of service and saving the state money. A Move Toward Core Services As it implemented modern Microsoft technologies, the DOS also adopted a more structured, service-oriented development model with reusable code for its core services, such as error handling, security capabilities, and interaction with its Active Directory service. The move represents a departure from the traditional monolithic, client-server approach in which developers code 100 percent of each new project from the start. By adopting integrated Microsoft development tools, the DOS made strides toward modernized application lifecycle management (ALM). Our use of Visual Studio, the .NET Framework, and thirdparty tools makes it possible to really boost efficiency because our developers have a core set of building blocks that have already been tailored and tested for our environment and for interaction with Windows Azure, says Aultman. A New Voter Registration System In September 2011, the department used Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 to start writing a new application for its voter registration system, making use of Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio to ensure that the application would run smoothly in the cloud. Developers also used the cloud-based Team Foundation Service to produce build automation that ran code back through compile and test phases to boost collaboration and avoid bottlenecks. Microsoft Premier Services and Microsoft Consulting Services were instrumental in helping us review and optimize the code to verify that it could handle the considerable anticipated load on election night, says Aultman.

With the combination of native load balancing in Visual Studio 2012 and the Windows Azure test environment, we can conduct realistic load testing, rapidly creating scripts and analyzing their results.
Larry Aultman, Chief Information Officer, Florida Department of State

By January 2012, the DOS had revamped the system to offer the bulk of the publicfacing data through the cloud. It plans to completely phase out the Oracle database and vendor software in early 2014. We completed and tested what we needed to have in place by the January presidential preference primary, says Aultman. If we hadnt used Windows Azure, it would have been extremely difficult for us to achieve the desired readiness and reliability levels. We knew that Windows Azure worked, our coding worked, and we didnt have to worry about failure points. The Windows Azurebased solution also delivered critical scalability. For the statewide primary and elections, the DOS scaled up 24 web instances and eight worker roles in Windows Azure and a dedicated Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database at a state data center, plus two Windows Azure SQL Database (formerly known as SQL Azure) instances in different Microsoft data centers. Following the election, it conserved costs by scaling back to two instances and four to six worker roles for day-to-day applications operations. Developers also created MyElection Tracker, an online application that proved very popular with citizens prior to the November 2012 general election. In addition to the publicfacing system, the department developed the Supervisor of Elections Administration application to handle non-voterregistration activities with the states counties. Corporation Indexing System Overhaul The Division of Corporations indexing system and database, which tracks 1.6 million registered Florida businesses, also needed to be updated with greater user accessibility, disaster-recovery capabilities, and newer hardware. Using the same tools and strategies that it used for the voter registration system, the DOS redeveloped the indexing system for use in the cloud. Weve got a truly innovative, non-

database-centric way of handling the indexing system using Windows Azure blobs, Windows Azure table storage, and Windows Azure SQL Database, says Aultman.


By investing in the .NET Framework 4.5, Visual Studio 2012, and Windows Azure, the DOS is more attuned to business needs, conserving costs and modernizing service. Aligning our department with Microsoft technologies and using Microsoft development tools and cloud capabilities saves us money, time, debugging, and overall headache, says Aultman. Responsiveness to Business Needs Another impetus for consolidating and upgrading DOS development capabilities with Microsoft solutions was to gain the agility necessary to meet the aggressive deadlines set by state lawmakers. Giving our developers flexible, integrated, easy-touse tools from Microsoft makes it possible for us to better accommodate the constant changes triggered by new laws and regulations, says Aultman. In the past, we could not even research and write the purchase order for a software solution in the same time that we now develop, test, and deliver oneand we can do it without spending $1 million. Millions of Dollars in Cost Savings Through its use of Microsoft tools and technologies, the DOS is also conserving costs. It is saving millions of dollars in licensing for the voter registration system alone. Well save at least $1 million per year for three years without trying hard, because we switched from licensing and maintaining the voter registration database and its offsite backup to Windows Azure and its subscription model, says Aultman. Increased Developer Productivity Gone are the days of building 100 percent of each new application. Developers now

Visual Studio
Visual Studio 2012's Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) capabilities provide your teams with powerful tools that span the entire modern application lifecycle to ensure quality and reduce cycle times while delivering continuous value from design to deployment. Whether youre developing applications for SharePoint, the web, Windows, Windows Phone, or beyond, Visual Studio is your ultimate allin-one solution. For more information go to: or

focus only on the 60 percent that is specific to each application, quickly assembling the other 40 percent from existing core pieces of common code. Weve instituted accelerated application delivery using Visual Studio and the .NET Framework, says Aultman. It dramatically speeds development to have 40 percent of your code ready and defect-free right at the start of a project. Cloud-enablement contributed heavily to the department meeting its aggressive 2012 elections deadline. Without using Windows Azure, it would have been impossible to procure new hardware, services, and everything else wed need to modernize our voter registration system within such a short timeframe, says Aultman. Higher-Quality Code Developers also have improved the overall quality of their code for faster development cycles and more robust applications. With the combination of native load balancing in Visual Studio 2012 and the Windows Azure test environment, we can conduct realistic load testing, rapidly creating scripts and analyzing their results, says Aultman. We can now quickly perform a whole lot of load testing and get real-world approaches to what that load testing should be. The ability to test in near real-time without the cost and hassle of additional hardware and provisioning has a big impact. Improved Developer Satisfaction Establishing a powerful, streamlined

environment and a focus on ALM has made life better for DOS developers, who previously struggled with aging technologies to satisfy stakeholder expectations. Ive built a top-notch team of coders, in part because I attract them with the best technologies, and I intend to keep it that way, states Aultman. I want our developers to have an enjoyable experience producing code for the state, which is why it has been so important to invest in modern Microsoft tools and technologies. Morale has definitely risen as a result of the new Microsoft tools and culture shift around here.

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Software and Services

Windows Azure Microsoft Visual Studio SQL Database Microsoft Visual Studio Ultimate 2012 Technologies Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate Active Directory Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional Microsoft Visual Studio Team Microsoft Server Product Portfolio Foundation Service Microsoft SQL Server 2008 .NET Framework 4.5

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published April 2013