Big Brother Down Under Demands Cloud

Big Brother

This report discusses the Australian federal government’s adoption of the cloud, as detailed by a December 9 article in The Australian (see source below). The Department of Education seems to be ahead of other governmental branches with cloudification: its entire ecosystem should be “cloud-ready” by 2019. Other government departments with huge IT budgets, including Health and Immigration, are progressively shifting to the cloud as well.

We will cover these topics:

  • Australia – 5-year Cloud-Readiness Plan
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Health
  • Immigration and Border Protection
  • Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • Are You Cloud-Ready?

Australia – 5-year Cloud-Readiness Plan

Fran Foo of The Australian spoke with directors of major federal government agencies to determine the extent of their cloud adoption, essentially getting the answers to two questions:

  1. What portion of their systems were currently prepared for cloud migration?
  2. What portion of their systems would be cloud-ready by 2019?

Most of the departments said that they were getting as much of their technology as possible ready for migration to cloud virtual machines and securely accessible on the web.

The Australian government’s move to the cloud provides an opportunity for tech contractors to get agencies prepared for on-demand computing, moving IT systems from the capex to the opex model.

The government spends a whopping $6 billion each year on computing, but only $5 million is presently spent on cloud (i.e., systems based on distributed virtual architecture that accesses a vast array of machines). One IT service provider told Foo that he thinks the tiny sliver of the government market controlled by cloud will “easily double” over the next year and a half in response to a statement by the government that cloud would henceforth be treated as the priority technology.

Department of Education

The Department of Education is in the process of pushing the bulk of its applications and services to the public cloud. A spokeswoman said that the department was using the cloud for development of various applications via a Sydney-based third-party datacenter.

The transition won’t occur overnight. The spokeswoman projects that within six months, 50% of development servers will have been traded in for public virtual machines.

The Education Department’s migration to the cloud is simplified through use of a shared services center, a project it operates in tandem with the Employment Department.

The spokeswoman also remarked that “the majority of [our] current application systems are capable of being hosted within appropriately secure cloud facilities,” and all the department’s IT ecosystem would be prepared for cloud migration by 2019.

Department of Health

Most of the Health Department’s infrastructure has been virtualized, meaning that it is run on virtual machines, and hence, it is in a format that can easily be transferred to the cloud. (Although left unsaid, my guess is that the department is currently running virtual private servers on dedicated machines either at its own datacenter or in a colocation facility.)

The spokesman for Health said that an announcement from the department on May 30 urged vendors to present whatever cloud options they had available.

Understandably based on the extreme needs for privacy and security with sensitive patient health data (as demonstrated by HIPAA regulations in the US), the department has many applications hosted on traditional physical servers. The spokeswoman said that those applications are not cloud-ready, but assumedly part of what she meant is that security parameters defined in healthcare law would require a private cloud on dedicated machines rather than the public cloud.

Nonetheless, the legacy applications will either be taken out of service or “re-platformed into key off-the-shelf enterprise systems” by 2019.

Immigration and Border Protection

The main Australian immigration agency has a few apps that are served from the public cloud. For example, the agency uses SuccessFactors, software-as-a-service for HR to monitor employee output (although many enterprises have found that electric dog collars are more effective at controlling personnel behavior).

A spokesman for Immigration said that most of the agency’s ecosystem is built on numerous platforms, so it’s not easy to transition it to the cloud. Regardless, the agency will “continue to explore opportunities to leverage cloud for our online systems, application development and testing requirements.”

The agency expects to have several mission-critical environments prepared for cloudification by 2019.

Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

A spokeswoman for the ATO (Australian’s counterpart to the United States’ Internal Revenue Service) said that 16 of the agency’s applications were delivered through the cloud. Disconcertingly given the need for security of sensitive data, the spokeswoman noted that the data had “an information security rating of public” (Foo).

However, the ATO will transition to new hosting scenarios on the basis of data privacy concerns. Many of the office’s applications are virtual and prepared for private cloud migration.

Are You Cloud-Ready?

Now obviously, you want to look before you leap with any technological decision. Simon Eid, a GM for Massachusetts-based IT storage hardware firm EMC’s Australian branch, said that anyone looking into cloud plans should find out “if I want to leave in 12 months’ time,” how data retrieval would occur and associated cost.

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By Kent Roberts

Source: The Australian, December 9, 2014