Australian Government reaches for the computing clouds

Stern Curator| Whatech

On 29 May the minister for broadband and the digital economy, senator Stephen Conroy unveiled a National Cloud Computing Strategy aimed at realising a vision that “Australians will create and use world-class cloud services to boost innovation and productivity across the digital economy.”

Not surprisingly he envisaged the NBN having a key role in the achievement of this vision. “We have to realise the incredible synergy between the NBN and cloud computing. Together, they become more than the sum of their parts,” Conroy said.

However, according to BitCloud CEO Bennett Oprysa the NBN does little right now to help either providers or users of cloud computing services.

“BitCloud is focused on the business sector and the greater cloud community looks forward to the rollout to business districts,” he said. “Currently the NBN has no real obvious benefit to business customers. It seems that, since businesses don’t vote, NBN Co will wire up marginal electorates first. That’s great for people wanting to download Game of Thrones Episode 3.2 nice and fast. However, the current schedule is useless for most business cloud applications and solutions. And mobile devices will receive no benefit whatsoever from the NBN.”

The strategy details a number of initiatives to promote the use of cloud computing throughout the economy and Conroy said that the Government, a major IT user, “will be a leader in the use of cloud services to achieve greater efficiency, generate greater value from ICT investment, deliver better services and support a more agile public sector.”

He said that, under the strategy, the Government would “make changes to procurement policy to ensure government agencies consider cloud services for their ICT procurements,” and would be “ensuring that agencies share their experience in using cloud services, so the value proposition becomes better understood within government.”

Research firm Ovum has long argued that governments should adopt a ‘cloud first’ policy, which the US and UK governments have done, and it said the Australian policy fell short in this regard. According to Steve Hodgkinson, Ovum’s Research Director, Public Sector Technology, “the Australian Government’s National Cloud Computing Strategy does not quite create a ‘cloud first’ approach.” However, he said that, overall, the new strategy “is well founded and pragmatic in its focus and intent, and it hits the spot pretty well.”

In parallel with the strategy the Government has released Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy: Maximising the Value of Cloud to flesh out how the Government itself will achieve the goal of being a leader in the use of cloud services.

Rather than adopting a ‘cloud first’ approach it states that Australian Government agencies will “consider cloud services for new ICT procurements” and that “Agencies will choose cloud services where the cloud service represents the best value for money and adequate management of risk compared to other available options.”

They will also be required to:
– commence procurement of public cloud services for their testing and development needs as appropriate where the service represents the best value for money and is fit for purpose;
– transition public-facing websites to public cloud hosting at natural ICT refreshment points, where those cloud services demonstrate best value for money and are fit for purpose; and
– establish information sharing initiatives to facilitate continual improvement based on a repository of case studies, better practices risk approaches and practical lessons to enable agencies to learn from each other.

To help them achieve these goals, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) will “enhance the guidance available to government decision-makers on how to evaluate the benefits of cloud services and how to procure and manage them.”

In addition the Government will “develop a business case by the end of 2013 to analyse the benefits and drawbacks of a more centralised approach to the provision of cloud services to Australian Government agencies.”

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