January 22, 2020
Paul Tatro - VP Strategic Partnerships

If you ride the subway into New York City every morning, and a quick look around the train highlights the fundamental change in human behavior that smartphones have inflicted on all of us (me included).  Every person is listening, watching, reading, conversing, or messaging with their smartphone. These advances in technology are creating an unprecedented amount of data. With the right approach and technology, all this data and more could be made available to public safety agencies.  If Emergency Services are going to make efficient and productive use of more and more data, the approaches to how this data is collected, stored, analyzed and acted upon will have to be modernized accordingly. The databases will be too large, the technology changes too rapid, and the investment in on-premise infrastructure will be too massive for public safety agencies to absorb.  Private sector businesses and the Federal Government have proven that dealing with so much data effectively is not possible without the Cloud.

Bring in the Clouds

When examining a cloud-based implementation, the first consideration to understand is the difference between “cloud-hosted” and “cloud-native”.  The fundamental difference between the two approaches is that cloud-native applications are specifically designed, developed, and deployed for cloud environments.  Several benefits accrue to applications that are written specifically for the cloud. We will highlight these later on in this article. Cloud-hosted applications, by contrast, take legacy systems that were designed for on-premises environments, and simply forklift what used to exist in your data room on to dedicated servers that are managed by a cloud service provider.  But this move lacks many of the cloud-native benefits because the infrastructure, applications, and data exist on dedicated servers, just as they did as a legacy premise-based system.

In public safety, it was always the belief that a 9-1-1 call-taking solution could never be a cloud-native solution because on-premise equipment would always be needed due to the CAMA trunk delivery method of incoming calls.  Now, with the implementation of ESINets across the United States and the possibility for an end-to-end SIP call, true cloud-native call-taking solutions are possible. The benefits of a cloud-native call-taking solution are the following:

  1. Resource Elasticity
  2. Multi-Server Redundancy
  3. Dynamic Provisioning
  4. Continuous Improvement
  5. Massive Economies of Scale

Let’s examine each of these benefits individually.

Resource Elasticity

Resource elasticity is the notion that cloud resources expand to meet spikes in demand but then shrink back to their default levels during periods of normal use. During emergencies, the massive influx of 9-1-1 calls for service, along with other digital information (ie, video, text, and geospatial information) can put a large strain on cloud-hosted environment especially if such volumes were not considered in setting up the hardware infrastructure. Cloud-native applications enables auto-scaling and load balancing that can accommodate surges in requests and reduce risks of downtime that can hamper emergency services.

Multi-Server Redundancy

Multi-server redundancy allows for redundant infrastructure and fault tolerance. In a cloud-native environment, the set-up is architected to withstand an almost unlimited loss of critical infrastructure.  Also, there is geographic redundancy that allow for a 911 call-taking system to be dynamically shifted entirely out of the geography to a physically separate data center if needed – something that is too costly to set up with a cloud-hosted environment. 

Dynamic Provisioning

PSAPs have long desired the flexibility of being able to dynamically credential a laptop to enable 9-1-1 call taking from outside the physical PSAP building.  With a cloud-native call-taking solution, spinning up a new workstation to take 9-1-1 calls is as easy as signing up for a Gmail account. Having those extra two workstations set up in a tent at the county fair or being able to take 9-1-1 calls from home is now possible.

Continuous Improvements

PSAP Directors all have the scars of installing an “upgrade” to their 9-1-1 call-taking solution that takes too long and costs as much as buying a new system.  A cloud-native call-taking solution is built-in agile development environments using focused and flexible micro-services which makes it easy to add as well as turn up new capabilities and modules in small, manageable increments.  The drip of continuous improvements eliminates the need for rip-and-replace upgrades. With open API’s, building new, innovative add-ons on top of cloud-native call-taking applications become much easier.

Massive Economies of Scale

Hosting a cloud-native call-taking application in the AWS GovCloud allows every PSAP – no matter how big or small – to take advantage of the most extensive, reliable, and secure cloud infrastructure in the world.  Less than 20% of PSAPs have a physically redundant data center but with a cloud-native application, every PSAP will have access to the same IT resources as the Federal Government and large companies like Citibank.


The entire public safety community is pushing hard to increase their technological capabilities to match the expectations of the public at large.  For organizations that need the flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing demands and unexpected emergency situations, cloud-native applications serve them best.


Paul Tatro

VP Strategic Partnership


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