The Australian Government has just released a third version of its Cloud Computing Policy. The new policy can be found here, although for additional context, it is located as part of a range of documents associated with Cloud Computing Policy, found here.
The document is a significant step forward from previous years. Previously departments needed to demonstrate that they had considered using Cloud before they implemented any new systems. The new policy is far more “Cloud-friendly”: the policy is now described as “cloud first” and states that “agencies must adopt cloud where it is fit for purpose, provides adequate protection of data and delivers value for money.” (emphasis on ‘must’ included in original document”
The government makes it clear this is the desired direction: “… agencies have made limited progress in adopting cloud. A significant opportunity exists for agencies to increase their use of cloud services through the Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy.”
“We are committed to leading by example, demonstrating the benefits of investing in and using cloud services”, the foreword goes on to say. Reflecting this, the stated policy goal is to “reduce the cost of government ICT by eliminating duplication and fragmentation and will lead by example in using cloud services to reduce costs, lift productivity and develop better services”
Whereas previously government agencies were asked to first consider Cloud, the new policy states they are “required to use Cloud services for new ICT services and when replacing any existing ICT services, whenever the cloud services:” are fit for purpose, offer best value, and manage risk adequately.
The policy encourages departments to consider cross-entity cloud facilities. Public cloud facilities are recommended for hosting public facing websites and private, public, community and hybrid are recommended for operational systems.
The government sees its role as a technical leader in the wider marketplace: “There is also an important flow-on effect to the broader economy. Combined with states and territories, government expenditure on ICT makes up approximately 30 per cent of the domestic ICT market. Improved adoption of cloud services by the government sends an important signal to the private sector. If government agencies were perceived to be treating cloud services as risky, this could reduce the adoption in the economy more generally.”
I think this is very encouraging for Australian uptake of Cloud – not just in a restricted public-cloud way, but in a full-spectrum use of Cloud technologies. After all, if the Government is mandating Cloud, what excuses do other businesses have?
No matter where you stand on the new Cloud technologies, there is no escaping the fact that Cloud Computing has everyone’s attention. For some business executives it is seen as an opportunity to financially restructure their IT expenditure. Some focus only on the risks they perceive of placing their data and systems in the hands of some external third party. Still others see it as providing the means to focus on their core business and new business ideas without having to worry about whether the computer infrastructure will be able to cope.
While IT teams must ensure that systems are safe and data is secure, it is ironic that by focusing too much on security and availability, many CIOs are exposing themselves, and their employers, to a far greater risk – the risk of missing the opportunities presented by new technologies emerging from Cloud Computing.
The CIOs who will provide the greatest value to their employer will be those who approach Cloud by asking themselves “what can we now achieve that was previously inconceivable?”
While there are many distracting arguments about what constitutes Cloud, the key characteristic that differentiates it from more traditional approaches is that Cloud provides the freedom to be remarkable – the freedom for a business to focus on what it does best without constraints imposed by infrastructure.
Traditional approaches to IT see the acquisition of dedicated equipment on a project basis, with each new system requiring new equipment and administration. This leads to ever-increasing IT complexity, with the IT department working to prevent things from getting out of hand. In many cases this has led to a perception that the IT department is the problem, and many IT budgets are shifting to marketing as a result. Under a Cloud model, IT should evolve to becoming a reservoir from which new equipment is instantly sourced, and a platform underpinning whatever the business or the marketplace throws at it, scaling up and down to meet changing demands. While traditional approaches add complexity, Cloud provides the freedom to focus on the business imperatives.
IT leaders who embrace Cloud computing as an enabler will not be seen as roadblocks by the marketing or sales departments. Especially when they adopt Open Cloud approaches such as OpenStack that overcome vendor lock-in and allow for hosting data on-premise, off-premise, or a mix of the two.
Cloud computing enables businesses to take advantage of the relationships their customers have with each other. For the cost of a coffee, businesses are able to experiment with new technologies by renting computers for the few hours it might take to trial an idea. They can continuously update their web presence in response to constantly changing patterns of behaviour. They can forge ahead with an initiative knowing that if it exceeds beyond their expectations, the platform can grow to accommodate it, and then shrink when the job is done. They can scale while maintaining a specialized relationship with each individual client. They can identify trends and make predictions based on analysing unprecedented amounts of data. Their employees can collaborate, find information and respond to events and customer demands with far greater agility than ever before. Those who truly adopt this approach fundamentally understand that the Cloud is independent of issues such as on-premise or off-premise – provisioning can include a mixture of both – even bare metal machines can be incorporated into a Cloud-oriented approach to provisioning.
CEOs need to understand that the opportunities to stand out have never been greater. They can help their businesses succeed in capitalizing by making it clear to their CIOs that it is no longer enough just to ensure that systems are operating and data is safe. Cloud computing opens up opportunities for a level playing field like never before and CEOs need to put their CIOs on notice that they need to be first to come up with the next wave of innovation or there will be more at risk than their jobs.