Cloud is Not for Everyone, But Even Government Infrastructure Can be ‘Cloud-Like’

Cloud Computing3 minutes readJul 24th, 2012

In the world of overhyped IT concepts, cloud is the new e-business. Not surprisingly, “cloud” was ranked the fifth most overused word in press releases in 2011 behind “solution”, “best,” “leading,” and “top.” The term has become so overused that many IT managers are now sceptical of the benefits being claimed and automatically switch off at the mention of cloud.

This seems to be particularly true of many Australian government organisations, which are already gun shy about moving to a cloud environment because of the potential risks, and are far less likely to run applications in the cloud than their commercial counterparts. For instance, a poll of 111 attendees at the CA World Expos in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra1 found that 57 percent of government respondents said they run no applications in the cloud compared to 36 percent of commercial organisations.

Unfortunately, they are also so tired of the hype around cloud computing that they risk overlooking the potential for other cloud-like approaches such as virtualisation and automation. These approaches, often used to prepare an IT environment for cloud adoption, can by themselves serve to reduce costs and make IT infrastructure more scalable, modular and mobile. These happen to be some of the same positive features driving the adoption of cloud, thus, you can be “cloud like” without actually entering the cloud.

Government agencies face many of the same IT issues as commercial organisations: managing capacity demands, streamlining processes and building an organisation that can quickly respond to changing business needs. However, they must achieve these levels of innovation within the unique constraints of a government environment; from citizen expectation and public scrutiny around data security and privacy, through to requirements for data sovereignty while also taking into account the impact of foreign government legislation such as the U.S. Patriot Act.

So it is surprising that when asked what they would do differently next time they implemented cloud services into their IT environment, 25 percent of government respondents said they wanted to make better use of existing IT infrastructure, yet only 9 percent said they would put greater focus on virtualising and automating the existing environment, compared to 25 percent of their peers in commercial organisations.

Do differently next time implementing cloud into their IT environment: Government: Commercial:
Make better use of existing IT infrastructure 26% 13%
Put greater focus on virtualising and automating the existing environment before adopting a cloud solution 9% 25%

While the survey indicates that government organisations want to make better use of their existing IT infrastructure, they could be overlooking virtualisation and automation techniques as a means of achieving that goal.

Perhaps they are overlooking these approaches as they are often used in a cloud environment or context, and are not being considered on their own merit – i.e. they may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

1 The survey was conducted by Unisys as a poll of 111 attendees at CA World Expo, a series of CA Technologies end-user events held in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne in July 2011. The 111 responses comprised of 46 responses from government organisations, 61 from commercial organisations, and 4 from non-profits. 61 percent of organisations had at least 3,000 employees.