Government organizations worldwide are looking to embrace the cost, flexibility, scalability and innovation benefits of Cloud computing. Yet, earlier this year, the UK government announced that it was to review its ‘cloud first’ strategy. One of the reasons given was the rise of hybrid Cloud environments. So, what makes hybrid Cloud attractive for government?
It’s often said that Cloud adoption in the public sector is slow when compared to private industry. It may interest you to know that, in fact, Cloud spend in both national and local government in the US outstrips the average of all industries–22% and 20.6% of budget respectively compared with 20.4% across all sectors. This is testament to the success of ‘Cloud first’ strategy that has been in place since 2010. We’ve also seen strategies adopted across the globe–from the UK to Singapore–with similar success.
Security and data sovereignty remain concerns
In 2018, Cloud adoption in US federal government rose by 32% reaching an all time high of $6.5 billion. At the same time, spending in G Cloud, the UK government’s Cloud first program, passed £200 million for the first time. While these figures are encouraging, concerns surrounding security and data sovereignty continue to persist.
Gartner suggests that security and data privacy is the main reason that government organizations are careful about moving to the public Cloud. There have been recent instances in both the UK and Australia where contracts have been delayed or cancelled due to issues over the management of sensitive data.
The analysts say that this is leading to private Cloud implementation growing at twice the rate of public Cloud adoption. However, it notes that, for government, ‘private Cloud’ often means a virtualized on-premise infrastructure that lacks the scalability or flexibility of pure Cloud implementations. Hybrid Cloud has the potential to offer the best of all worlds with agencies able to build the optimum mix of public Cloud, private Cloud and on-premise infrastructure.
The benefits of hybrid Cloud
There can be no doubt today that the Cloud offers incredible benefits for governments throughout the world. As every agency focuses on IT modernization, the Cloud delivers a means to quickly bring new applications and services online at a fraction of the time and cost of on-premise development. The organizations can implement a pay-as-you-go model to only purchase the compute power and storage that it consumes.
As today’s citizen becomes more demanding about the quality of digital and mobiles services they receive, Cloud gives the flexibility to innovate in how citizen services are designed and delivered. It ensures the scalability to enable the secure connection of rapidly growing numbers of internal and external users.
The traditional view–that still holds sway in some government organizations–that data is only secure when held on your own servers in your own data center is rapidly becoming out-dated. Today, the Cloud is often more secure than on-premise implementations. It has been designed for the volume and velocity of the new types of data that all organizations–public and private–have to deal with.
The challenge becomes data privacy and integrity. The EU set us on a path with its GDPR legislation. Now regulators across the globe are redefining data privacy for the Internet age. It goes without saying that government is, quite rightly, one of the most regulated industries so careful consideration has to be made for how and where sensitive data is held.
While secure and powerful, the public Cloud is evolving to support workloads that are stable and contain less sensitive information. The early hybrid alternative was to maintain all sensitive data on-premise and move everything else to the Cloud.
Today, there is a more sophisticated path where government organizations can choose to place workloads on the best platform for their mission needs and budgets. They can create an environment based around a combination of on-premise, private Cloud and public Cloud.
In this context, I mean private Cloud as a platform–such as OpenText Cloud–that offers pure Cloud services but with levels of service customization, performance, compliance and information governance that a public Cloud provider will struggle to match. A provider like OpenText delivers a complete, private Cloud infrastructure to enable the agency to determine its security and data privacy provisions.
Why ‘Cloud first’ is becoming ‘Cloud smart’
In effect, the agency is able to build multi-Cloud, hybrid environments tailored to its specific requirements. It’s this situation that led to the G Cloud review in the UK with officials saying: “We are seeing more and more customers land on a hybrid solution and therefore ‘cloud first’ may not be right for everyone.”
The same thing is happening in the US where the federal government is moving from ‘Cloud first’ to ‘Cloud smart’. Part of the explanation for the change, according to its website, is “The traditional cloud deployment models reflected a progression of increasing vendor-ownership through system layers … Industry has since moved to a more finely differentiated set of capabilities at different layers. The rapid development of both open source and proprietary offerings have made possible today almost any combination of vendor and Government ownership of these various layers. “
The benefits of the Cloud are too important for government to ignore. By adopting a hybrid approach to Cloud adoption, government organizations can overcome the security and data sovereignty issues of the past to deliver a new generation of cost-effective and innovative citizen services.