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Finance to consider whole-of-government Cloud Computing Panel

by David Shi and Paris Cowan •
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In December this year, the Department of Finance and Deregulation will launch an investigation into the possibility of establishing a whole-of-government panel for the sourcing of cloud computing capability.

The revelation forms part of the Australian Government’s Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper, released via the AGIMO Blog.

The paper says that that Finance will look to other coordinated procurement projects currently underway, such as the Data Centre Strategy, to inform its decision on the establishment of a whole-of-government cloud panel.

The investigation will also consider the success of AGIMO’s own transferral of its public-facing data to the public cloud, and the proofs of concepts undertaken independently by other agencies, when making their final decision.

The Department also intends to look into a risk-based Service Provider Certification Program, based on US Government equivalents and risk assessments already undertaken by individual agencies.

The release of this final Cloud Computing Strategy follows from a draft discussion paper released in January to generate stakeholder feedback.

According to Government CIO, Ann Steward, “over fifty agencies, companies and individuals responded to the draft paper”.

As a result, the final Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper delves into further technical depth than the original (notably in the environmental scan section) than the final draft, which primarily concerned itself with the overall vision of the project.  The final also includes a cloud service provider listing and plans to meet and cooperate with the AIIA as a result of the feedback.

Cloud computing is an ICT sourcing and delivery model that enables convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of computing resources.

Traditionally, computing services have been delivered through individual computers, sometimes running on different operating systems. Cloud computing reduces both time and cost by maximising the efficiency of ICT systems.

The strategy encourages innovation by permitting Australian Government agencies to choose and adopt new cloud based services if they demonstrate value for money and adequate security.

This cloud model is composed of five core functions:

  • On demand self-service – consumers access computing capabilities without requiring human interaction.
  • Broad network access – uniform capabilities and standard mechanisms are available over the network, promoting the use of personal devices such as mobile phones and laptops.
  • Resource pooling – the provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers with varying demands and requests simultaneously.  
  • Rapid elasticity– system capabilities can be rapidly and elastically provisioned, in some cases automatically, to cater for changing consumer demands.
  • Measured Service– cloud systems automatically control and optimise resource use by utilising a measured service. Resource usage can be monitored, controlled and reported; providing transparency for both the provider and consumer.

The plan will establish a Whole-of-Government Cloud framework in conjunction with the Cloud Information Community (CLIC) that will maximise knowledge of cloud services on both a local and an international basis.  

It also promises a Cloud Framework, to be developed from December 2011, to guide agencies in the implementation of risk-prone cloud infrastructure.

While the document acknowledges that cloud projects are already underway within the Federal Government, it adds that an ad-hoc approach increased the potential risks.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has deployed cloud services to host its eTax lodgement systems and some administrative systems, as well as the Standard Business Reporting and Business Names projects, which have been implemented in cooperation with the Treasury using private/community cloud capabilities.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has implemented virtualisation software to transition to a private cloud environment.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has invested in a proof-of-concept investigation into using a cloud platform for its client lodgement process.

And the Department of Human Services is at the proof-of-concept stage of a public cloud project.

“Many agencies have already started using software services delivered from cloud, or cloud-like, providers (i.e. online surveys and employment forms). The increase in autonomy for agency line of business areas to deploy cloud computing services threatens the established agency ICT and security governance controls,” says the document.


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