A growing desire to reap the benefits offered by cloud computing is leading to more governments pushing it to the top of their technology to-do lists.
Just as private-sector firms have embraced cloud computing as a way to reduce costs and improve flexibility, governments at all levels are now following the same path.
A recent National Commission of Audit report called on the Australian Government to adopt a mandatory ‘cloud first’ policy for all low-risk, generic information and for communication technology services. The Commission estimated such a policy could reduce spending on IT infrastructure by between 20 and 30 per cent.
Meanwhile the Queensland government is taking a similar approach. It recently updated its ICT strategy to include a cloud computing implementation model that incorporates a 'cloud first' strategy. The Queensland Government estimates the move could result in annual savings of up to $18 million.
Clearly the adoption of a cloud first policy by government and public-sector agencies has the potential to deliver massive benefits in the areas of improved service delivery and reduced spending of taxpayer funds.
Duplication of resources can be reduced and savings focused on areas that will provide maximum benefits. As an example, the Commission’s report revealed the Australian Government currently runs more than 40 installations of SAP. This situation could be avoided with cloud adoption.
Rather than individual departments investing in their own IT infrastructure, required processing and storage capacity could be obtained from a suitable cloud provider. Managed properly, this process would eventually create a uniform Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform for the entire government.
The change would be dramatic. Instead of needing to follow a competitive tender process each time more IT resources were required, departments and agencies could simply obtain the needed capacity from a cloud provider.
While there's no question this alone would be a significant improvement for any government, the concept can be taken even further. Rather than departments deploying their own platform/applications on a cloud-based infrastructure, they can instead move to a full outsourced Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
By embracing PaaS and/or SaaS, departments can adopt a centralised pay-as-you go approach to IT where resources are scaled up and down to meet changes in demand.
Naturally, such a migration won't be achieved overnight. It takes time and planning to shift legacy systems onto a cloud infrastructure platform. It will take even more effort to adopt a full PaaS and/or SaaS approach.
Cloud providers must also be assessed to ensure they can deliver the levels of reliability and security required by governments. Their physical data centre facilities will need to be carefully reviewed so government departments can be confident they offer the resilience and dependability needed to support critical systems.
Factors to consider include geographic location, standard of construction, standards of operation, and the availability of redundant power and network links to the data centre.
Adopting a cloud first policy makes complete sense for governments. Just as the cloud is revolutionising IT infrastructure for business, similar outcomes can be achieved within the public sector.