STORM CLOUDS’ pilot cities move to the Cloud: The Valladolid city case

In the EU policy towards the creation of a cloud of public services, there has been a lot of effort during the last few years. In September 2012, the European Commission adopted the European Cloud Computing Strategy. The strategy is designed to speed up and increase the use of cloud computing across the economy as the gain in jobs and overall economy indicators is clearly identified (Figure 1). In particular, public sector organizations have much to gain by taking a cloud computing approach to service delivery in their information and communications technology (ICT) environments.

Under this context, STORM CLOUDS project was established with the main objective to explore the shift to a cloud-based paradigm for deploying services that public authorities already provide, based on their internal ITC infrastructure.

The STORM CLOUDS project methodology was pilot tested in four different cities across the EU countries. Following a common methodological framework, each city participating in the project used the monitoring guide created by STORM CLOUDS, in order to develop a suitable migration mechanism, according to its needs, its urban and administrative context.

The Valladolid City scenario

Ayuntamiento de Valladolid

In the case of Valladolid, four different applications were pre-selected by the internal staff involved in the project, instead of presenting to stakeholders a wide range of candidate applications to be migrated on the cloud. In general, the field of applications/services was considered as a priority in the innovation strategy for the municipality. The criteria used to identify the list of applications included issues about situation of the city, citizens’ demands and users’ requests, as long as Municipality strategic lines for developing both technical and public services. Based on these criteria, four applications were selected:

  1. Blue Parking – App for metered parking areas
  2. Ideal Innobarometer – Location of best places for new businesses
  3. LocalGIS – Mapping services for municipalities
  4. UeR (Urbanismo en Red) – Urban planning information for cities

Furthermore, project stakeholders were selected among two different groups, internal and external to the municipality. Also, the main criteria for the selection within each of these groups were diversified. In the first case, for internal users the main criterion was that migration of some applications on the cloud could affect their job in some ways. For instance, procurement department’s work is differentiated when buying hardware, than when contracting a cloud service. Moreover, in the case of external stakeholders the crucial parameter was to achieve a diversified representation of groups of citizens living in the city, e.g. people from different age groups or professional skills, local SME, entrepreneurs, etc. This was complemented by organisations playing a key role in the coordination of city actors.

After having defined the main selection criteria in each case, two groups were created. For the internal group, Municipality employees were mostly selected, due to their deep knowledge of the importance of each application and the fact that they could suggest improvements to be made, concerning applications’ functionality. The internal stakeholders selected were, Urban Planning Department, Traffic Management Department and Entrepreneur Promotion Department. Moreover, members working in some other departments, units that usually provide support for the rest of the city departments and they own a global vision of municipality needs and strengths form their point of view, were also selected. The stakeholders selected in this case were Information Technology Department, Accounting Department, Legal Services and Local Innovation Agency.

The external stakeholders’ group was composed by different profile citizens, small companies and associations with a clear focus on innovation. Using this latter criterion, members from the following groups were selected:

  • Agile CyL: a regional community of agile technologies developers.
  • ePunto: a company devoted to fostering innovation in Castilla y León and linked to the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Geocyl: a start-up in the field of geographic information systems consulting.

Results

The migration process of services produced a number of essential conclusions from the whole process, resulting from monitoring and validation activities. Municipality technical staff mentioned that using a cloudified version of an application gives them more flexibility in service providing. Based on this approach, a temporal upgrading is feasible, cheap and easy to use during limited periods of time, like urban plans submitted to public debate for a time. Furthermore, after a presentation and a testing period by specialised staff (8 people) all of them reviewed positively the application. More specifically, 6 out of 8 (75%) illustrate a very positive attitude, while the other 2 rated it only as positive for their work.

Technical effort regarding system’s maintenance has proven to be easier in the cloudified version, as most of the tasks being routine jobs, the staff can be devoted to more creative work. The relative ease of getting the service recovered from a crash by just re-storing the instance in a short time and reducing downtime period is also remarkable for the technical staff. In addition, provision of telecommunications service is another major advantage, leading to a de-creased number of new contracts with partners for using their services only for a few weeks.

At a political management level cloud migration is also perceived as a positive trend, as it allows hiring application provision as a service, which seems to be more appropriate for the municipality, than owning apart from the required hardware, also the associated staff for its maintenance. Moreover, some feedback was also received by the municipality management level, which shows that 80% of interviewed managers (10 people from different municipality departments) characterized this application as very useful for the deployment of municipality policies and for enhancing transparency to citizenship on urban projects in the city. In addition to that, 2 people (20%) expressed a sceptic attitude towards the impact of cloudification on citizens’ lives.

          Table below summarizes all previous conclusions:vollavoid-table

Selected cloud-based services: Urbanismo en Red (UeR)

The finally selected application Urbanismo en Red (UeR) is created with the purpose of publishing the municipal development plans, across Internet, enabling citizens to access them easily. It is designed for increasing and enhancing transparency in public management of urban sectors. Moreover it provides full interoperability between the various authorities and stakeholders, through electronic services that enable the provision of information of urban planning, to be used by different stakeholders. The application is used by end users (public), operators (GIS technicians) and administrators.

vollavoid-city_1Website (http://www10.ava.es/), main window

vollavoid-city_2Settings window for a search within the maps

vollavoid-city_3Settings window for a different layer within the maps

The application is available online: http://www10.ava.es/Visor.

Note
This post is based on STORM CLOUDS’ documents (reports and deliverables) and the paper:
Panori A, González-Quel A, Tavares M, et al. 2016, Migration of applications to the Cloud: a user-driven approach. Jour-nal of Smart Cities, vol.2(1): 41–52.

For further reading
Kakderi C, Komninos N and Tsarchopoulos P, 2016, Smart cities and cloud computing: lessons from the STORM CLOUDS experiment. Journal of Smart Cities, vol.2(1): 4–13 62-344-1-pb

Panori A, González-Quel A, Tavares M, et al. 2016, Migration of applications to the Cloud: a user-driven approach. Jour-nal of Smart Cities, vol.2(1): 41–52 64-334-1-pb

Giannakoulias A, 2016, Cloud computing security: protecting cloud-based smart city applications. Journal of Smart Cities, vol.2(1): 66–77 60-338-1-pb