Just when you thought you understood the concept of cloud computing, the Department of Finance and Deregulation has begun exploring a new model called the government community cloud.
“This program of work is to assess the feasibility of a government community cloud and is scheduled to commence shortly and is due for completion in April 2014,” a spokesperson from Finance told Intermedium.
Still fairly new in the Australian Government, the idea refers to the shared use of cloud services by agencies with similar requirements and delivery agendas. The cloud services provider can be a private sector supplier or a government agency.
Government community clouds will operate under a lead agency with responsibility over the service provider and security and privacy requirements, according to Finance’s Community Cloud Governance Better Practice Guide.
“To suit business requirements, agencies may participate in more than one Community Cloud,” states the Better Practice Guide, indicating the potential for a number of government community cloud arrangements if the business case is successful.
The Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper identifies an early stage example of community cloud use in the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Standard Business Reporting project. The Govreports business management and budget portal launched in 2011 gives ATO, State Revenue Offices and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission centralised access to business reporting information.
This was recently expanded to include direct-to-government lodgement capabilities for business accounting and payroll forms, with the release of the Govreports Application Programming Interface in 2012.
The community cloud feasibility assessment will include agency and industry consultation in the coming months, with a final business case to be submitted to the Secretaries ICT Governance Board (SIGB) in 2014.
Finance will release a draft of its findings and recommendations for public comment prior to submission, according to the Department’s spokesperson.
The Department will also look outside Australia to examine existing instances of government community cloud use.
“As part of the exploration, we anticipate reviewing the approaches to government cloud from various jurisdictions around the world such as the US, UK, Europe, Canada and NZ,” said the spokesperson.
In the United States, Intelligence and Energy departments and agencies have already developed community-wide government clouds that enable infrastructure sharing between similar agencies. Major ICT providers such as IBM, Dell and Lockheed Martin are building purpose-built government data centres and “federal community clouds” that allow organisations to share infrastructure, software and applications.
Despite the limited use of government community clouds to date, the model is included in most major cloud computing policy and strategy documents, including:
- The Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy;
- The National Cloud Computing Strategy; and
- The Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper.
The Australian Government’s interest in the community cloud model aligns with the general trend towards the centralisation of outsourced services in the Federal Government, as seen through projects such as the Internet Gateway Reduction Scheme.
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