State upgrades e-mail while saving money

August 22, 2005

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

Corporate CEOs reach their employees at the touch of a button. E-mail creates access and opportunity for two-way instant communication. In an emergency, CEOs get the message out and hear feedback as well.

That's not always true in state government. Government e-mail systems are a cluttered patchwork of old and new computers with different software and e-mail systems. Scheduling a meeting electronically can be a challenge.

Thanks to a new deal with Microsoft, and some enterprising efforts by Gov. Blagojevich's IT team, Blagojevich and 55,000 state employees under his authority will soon have better access.

In the process, the state will save $6 million annually on software licenses and updates. Savings will also be available to municipalities that will share in the state's bargaining power under a new Enterprise Agreement signed with Microsoft.

Addressing the governor

Rod_Blagojevich@gov.state.il.us will be phased out over the next year. It will be replaced with Rod.Blagojevich@Illinois.Gov.

"When the governor came into office, electronic communication was not easy," says Jay Carlson, deputy director of the bureau of communications and computer services and the leader of the improvement program. "There were 46 different e-mail address books."

Adds Brian Chapman, chief operating officer of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services: "A taxpayer had no way of finding anybody. Maybe that was by design, but it wasn't a good design. You couldn't even guess at someone's e-mail address. Different computer address books made it impossible to find people."

More importantly the state's buying power was not leveraged.

"A small municipality could never get the discounts," says Chapman. "Now they can benefit from the deal we've negotiated."

Plans are also under way to rationalize purchase of desktop computers. A technology road map is in place to standardize the communications infrastructure.

Univa lands $8 million

Elmhurst-based Univa Corp. today announces Series A funding totaling $8 million. Backers include three local VC's: Arch Venture Partners, New World Ventures, and OCA Ventures. Denver-based Appian Ventures also participates.

Funds will be used to support Univa's market launch of its open source grid computing infrastructure software. Univa's products help corporate computer executives use state-of-the-art grid computing to make data center management more efficient.

"Univa's management represents the industry's foremost grid authorities," says New World Ventures partner J. B. Pritzker. Pritzker sees Univa as poised for growth in the Grid computing space.

Univa CEO Steve Tuecke, 38, is bullish on Chicago's prospects as a home to Grid computing startups. "Chicago is a cluster for grid activity with the seeds for the software planted long ago at Argonne and U. of C.," says Tuecke.

With venture money in his pocket, Tuecke is looking for top talent in business development and marketing.

Nano Gap

Illinois is a hotbed of nanotech research. Will that result in future jobs? For the local economy to benefit, nano research must be commercialized into marketable products. "There's a commercialization gap," says author and entrepreneur Daniel Ratner.

Ratner and his co-author father, Northwestern professor Mark Ratner, spoke last week at the Brinks Hofer law firm. Bill Prendergast, the firm's nanotech expert, hosted the event as a tune-up for Nano Commerce 2005, the trde show that hits McCormick Place Nov. 1-3.

"There hasn't yet been an Intel," says Mark Ratner, meaning no dominant nanotech organization has emerged the way Intel dominated memory chips and then microprocessors.

"It's a horse race," says Ratner, who wants the Midwest to create the nanotech version of Intel or Cisco.

That's no small idea, Professor.

U. of I.'s Sanders scores

Bill Sanders, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign computer science professor, is celebrating a $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support his work keeping the nation's electrical power grid safe from cyber threats.

 

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-area tech writer and consultant.

 

 

 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners