Think short-term benefit for long-term cloud

By GovTechReview Staff
Monday, 14 January, 2013

Organisations considering cloud computing may have grand visions of mass migrations to a service-based architecture, but a staggered approach in the short term will provide a more realistic way to step towards cloud computing in the long term, two cloud integrators advised attendees at the Cloud Computing Forum 2012.

Speaking in a tag-team format, Wayne Allen of Unisys and Peter Sharples of CA Technologies explored the opportunities for government organisations to step their way towards cloud services in “pragmatic” fashion that focuses on small wins with rapid ROI.

(Left to right) NASA AMES Research Centre CIO James Williams; Tim Whiteley, Executive GM Enterprise Service Development, CBA; Mark Pratley, General Manager Network Computing Services, Telstra; Dr Jonathan Gray, NICTA. Photo: David Braue

“We’ve all seen what [the Gershon Review] has done to your budget next year, so you probably have to get a 12-month ROI to do your project in the same fiscal period,” Sharples, who is CA’s director of cloud and automation, said.

“Three-year investments are no longer acceptable in this day and age, and they will be limited by the availability of cash. It’s not about doing more with less — often, it’s about doing more with nothing.”

That reality can conflict with the extensive infrastructure change normally required for organisations to fully embrace cloud computing, Allen — DCTO practice lead within the TCIS division of Unisys Australia, pointed out — but fiscal constraints don’t necessarily mean a shift to cloud is out of the question. Rather, he said, a slowly-slowly approach will help pull organisations in the right direction.

“Cloud isn’t for everyone, but you can miss out on the benefits of being cloud-like if you don’t do your homework,” he explained, citing recent Unisys customer research that found 60 percent of over 200 respondents were already outsourcing something to the cloud — but these were typically low-risk items like travel services and email.

“A quarter of agencies wanted to extract more from their existing infrastructure, but less than 10 percent of them were considering any automation in their environment,” Allen said. “This was quite telling about the current state of the cloud, and it’s why we’re working to help clients get from their main infrastructure that supports the business, to move to a modular and adaptive environment that lets you deploy services in the near real term.”

Even where there is funding available, government IT organisations often struggle with issues like security and capacity management.

“Time and time again we see the promise and hype of the cloud and the benefits it can bring,” Sharples said. “But someone way up in government says it’s awesome and the IT guys are working with AGIMO, DSD and others to try and bridge this gap between the promise of the cloud and what the government has as a reality of their world.”

Effective use of service catalogues, for example, often proves difficult, driving many organisations to take a stepped approach by working with business leaders to build the catalogue around the most common requirements.

"It’s not about doing more with less — often, it’s about doing more with nothing."

Iterative development approaches and service-oriented development frameworks can deliver new functionality with extremely short lead times, which in turn spawns a progressive development culture that can build on its own successes over time.

“It all starts with understanding what you want to provide, be it internal or external,” says Sharples. “Once you’ve standardised those services, you can automate the process; as you do this over time, you can step up the scale and tackle another problem. Most customers have the capacity to build their own private clouds right now — but they just don’t know it.” – David Braue

This feature originally appeared in the February/March 2012 issue of Government Technology Review. The speakers participated in a panel discussion 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. Click through for more information, or to register.

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