Efficiency pressures hasten government cloud reckoning: Telstra

By GovTechReview Staff
Monday, 17 December, 2012

The improved economies of cloud-based solutions offer great promise for budget-pressured government departments expected to deliver a better customer-service mentality while simultaneously keeping costs under check, the head of Telstra’s federal government relations told attendees at the Cloud Computing Forum 2012. Competing forces like the consumerisation of technology and the consolidation of government data centres have pushed government bodies towards the model, Chris Lowe, director federal government business within Telstra’s Enterprise and Government division explained. Stakeholders, he said, want technology solutions that are at once straightforward, accessible and economical — and they want them quickly. “There is a direct impact on public and private sectors on how they manage costs while still innovating to meet customer and citizen demand,” Lowe said. “To meet the expectations of citizens in such challenging times, the public service needs to be able to ramp up quickly, inspire confidence, and to be effective and accommodating.” “At the same time,” he continued, “it is expected to discharge its duties in an environment defined by financial imperatives for high efficiency, and cost-saving measures. This all means that businesses and governments have to innovate through IT, and provide services in what often feels like overwhelming conditions.”

Little wonder that cloud-computing models are gaining so much traction: with a focus on low-cost delivery and reduced complexity, cloud computing ticks many of the boxes for government organisations.

Yet there are still choices to be made, even when cloud computing has presented itself as a logical option: Telstra, Lowe said, has jumped into the cloud with both legs, committing $800m in infrastructure over five years to build up a roster of service offerings to suit government and corporate requirements. Whereas many cloud providers have focused on offering a particular type of cloud service, Telstra has spread its bets across a range of options. These range from low-end consumer- style offerings to high-end government services that include “the appropriate architectures and security fabric required to support the very highest information security levels, and therefore to meet the needs ot very specific government sectors.” Interestingly, despite the perception that cloud computing is mainly a large-organisation play, local governments have proved particularly progressive around the cloud-computing model “in support of their municipal responsibilities,” Lowe said.Ultimately, Telstra’s strategy will be to offer infrastructure to suit organisations — particularly in these early days of cloud computing — no matter what cloud-computing model they elect to adopt.

“State governments have commenced doing public and private cloud solutions in the form of email to students, and the federal government has commenced investigating the potential of cloud computing through various means.” Despite the early interest at all levels of government, organisational constraints still hold many organisations back, Lowe added: “most government programs and initiatives have a strong technological component, and agencies often require additional capacity but lack the funding and time to source them through conventional ICT procurement.” Successfully embracing the cloud, Lowe concluded, will require that government organisations successfully reconcile these constraints with their desire for positive change. “Clients have advised us that they view the integration of cloud services, network management, and a secure Australian data centre as paramount,” he said. “All of these elements are part of an aspiration of all three tiers of government to achieve the continuing connection of government to its citizens.” – David Braue This feature originally appeared in the February/March 2012 issue of Government Technology Review. Telstra's Chris Lowe was presenting at the Cloud Computing Forum 2012 conference in Canberra. The Cloud Computing Forum 2013 will be held at Rydges Lakeside, Canberra on 20 and 21 February 2013.

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