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The Key to Cloud Computing in the Public Sector? Balance and Integration

by Kristen Hammond •
Free resource

Transitioning to cloud computing brings many challenges for organisations including difficult choices around which applications and information to migrate to the cloud, National ICT Australia’s (NICTA) Dr. Anna Liu told delegates at CeBIT’s ‘Future Proofing Your Data Centre’ Conference in Sydney on 14 February 2011.

Dr. Liu, Principal Research Leader, Enterprise Software and Services at NICTA, explored the risks and opportunities associated with outsourcing data centres to the cloud in her address and suggested a path for government agencies.  

While the benefits of cloud computing are celebrated, the model is not without its risks, Dr. Liu explained, with security and privacy being the primary concerns.

In line with the risks that the AGIMO discussion paper on cloud computing outlined, Dr. Liu listed the following as key considerations:

  • Ownership of data and ‘lock in’ – lack of ability and motivation to extract data once embedded in the cloud has contributed to vendor reluctance;
  • Return on investment;
  • Integration with existing assets;
  • Identity management – identity management and authorisation of employees within the cloud is often the weakest link;
  • Interoperability;
  • Regulation; and
  • Migration challenges.

NICTA is undertaking research to formulate solutions to these issues, while the private sector is also working on developing solutions to these challenges. Through their combined interest, the private and public sectors are making great strides in creating more secure, reliable and flexible cloud computing solutions.

Despite the risks associated with cloud, Dr. Liu said NICTA had seen uptake of the cloud model in Australia, although mainly in the private sector. The three key types of cloud computing are:

  • Software as a service, in which the business capability is complete and ready for use;
  • Platform and infrastructure as a service; and
  • Government cloud, community cloud and private cloud;

Of these types, Dr. Liu identified the ‘software as a service’ model as having the greatest level of uptake, while ‘platform and infrastructure as a service’ is gaining momentum, with large enterprises currently evaluating how this model will integrate with their current functionalities.

The third type, ‘government and community cloud’, has been the slowest to evolve, with a lack of public cloud providers in Australian flagged by NICTA as a key hurdle. Current government trends of data centre consolidation, standing offer arrangements and shared services are, however, pushing this model forward.

Dr. Liu acknowledged that while a range of Government applications will not be suitable for relocation to the public cloud due to the classified, sensitive nature of the data they manage, there will be a class of public sector applications which can make effective use of the public cloud. 

By conducting a feasibility study, Dr. Liu explained, NICTA had determined that adopting the cloud in certain organisations was technically viable. However, there were challenges, the foremost of which being how the new cloud model would integrate with existing systems and operational procedures.

Dr. Liu identified a potential issue for government agencies that outsource their infrastructure management, suggesting that if these agencies choose to implement cloud solutions this could lead to confusion about the roles and responsibilities of the different vendors for the agency. Managing the integration between existing applications and new cloud platforms is therefore a key consideration for agencies moving in this direction. 

 ‘We noticed and we forecast that in the future, organisations need to be able to manage across both things [including] the cloud, along with things that you manage and control within your traditional IT environment’, Dr. Liu said.

Dr. Liu’s observations at the CeBIT Conference came a month after the Australian Government Information Management Office released its draft Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper. As Intermedium reported on 13 January 2011, the Paper indicates the government intends to implement cloud services where secure, risk-managed and fiscally advantageous from early 2011.

  • NSW
  • IT Services
  • Policy
  • Anna Liu
  • CeBIT Conference
  • Cloud Computing
  • National ICT Australia
  • nicta
  • Data Centres