We spoke to the last two men who served the city Chief Technology Officer role to give some advice for Adel Ebied.
I think he is a great choice. My hat is off to the mayor and Rich Negrin. Adel is a superb choice for the City top technology leadership role. I am confident he will continue to make progress. I chipped away at some of the issues. We need to give him his 100 days to get his arms around the City technology. It is breathtakingly complex and critical to all facets of city operations and services. I know Adel has the leadership talent, experience and the internal wiring to be successful inside the City. I look forward to meeting with him. I am at his disposal. But it’s important he draw his own conclusions. I will give him my thoughts when he asks me. But i am just one of many data points he will undoubtedly consider in his first 100 days. I remember my 1st 100 days well. I barely knew where the soda machines were and the city got hit with over a billion $ deficit as a result of a national economic meltdown. Regardless, I want to believe I was able to make some improvements while I had the technology helm. Adel is coming on board at a different time and will set priorities accordingly. I am confident he will make a major impact. The things I learned this year, someone else would have to learn over.
Does he have the number of qualified staff for the job?
I knew capacity was an issue when I came here, but I had no idea how bad.
So, I have two people in my network group, in D.C., I had thirteen. [Those are] the core folks who are responsible for keeping up all the communications structure that support, what, 27,000 city users, in addition to 1.5 million people. [It’s true that] we also have some network folks in the departments that are now consolidated with us, and we’re working very hard because we know there are efficiencies to be found. We have already started moving some of those people into a central group to learn from each other, to share knowledge. Where we were weak and we had only one person, now they’re in the same group and starting to share, so I’m making myself safer.
Is the city IT network any more updated and secure than when you started?
You heard this before: the network infrastructure here is really bad. We’ve put a lot of effort into trying to upgrade. If you’re running an office, a government office, on 1.5 megabit download — nobody has DSL anymore, but that’s what we’re running on — [you’re in trouble]. We have to replace about 1,000 switches.
I have found the potholes I have to dodge…. we found servers in rooms that had water dripping. We’ve consolidated them with virtual servers, so we’re building out the bigger data centers.
We’re still working on the same strategic initiatives. We’ll have the largest mesh network in the country up and running shortly. I don’t want to say a time because whenever I say a time i run into some kind of contracting or procurement or some kind of snag that I didn’t realize. You have to learn every environment, [and] the way Philly does things, it’s double checking and triple checking, It’s different than d.c.
What has been toughest change?
I’m accustomed to moving very fast. in philly, because of the changing culture in terms of integrity and transparency, is hard to move fast because they want to double, tripe, quadruple check, question everything.i support that, but im sitting there saying 40 percent of the things i need to do, i didn’t know i was going to do last week. i walk in the door of the police commissioner and he says, ‘you have to build a pawn shop system. what? where did that come from. well that was legislation passed in council. OK. i go over and say, ‘guys i have to take some people and build a pawn shop system, that wasn’t in your plan you submitted to me. [laughs]. i say, ‘you’re ight, it was isnt the plan because i had no idea.’
What was your biggest misconception coming into the job?
I guess I assumed coming into government that the basic infrastructure was in place. It’s hard to do rocket science when I’m stuck with a situation across 200 buildings in the city, I’m running 1.3 megaibits per second T1 lines. You try running video surveillance, you try running web-based apps. You try doing anything when you don’t have the basics.
You talked a lot about the struggles with the network. How has that progressed in your time here?
We’re in the process of turning over every switch in the city, over a 1,000 of them… started in last spring. got a piece of money to start in public safety and police… We started in the police, which is all done…. We really focused on the police districts and increasing the bandwidth, replaced every switch with one gigabit q-s enabled switches, one gig backbone in the city. Start there. we provisioned bandwidth from 1. gigabit per second to t2 cloud. 10 or 100 gig in terms of backbone speed.
But I think I’ve ben able to pull together that picture. We’ve chipped away at this period of time, the infrastructure improvements… We know exactly what needs to get done.-30-