While IT leaders understand the benefits of Cloud computing, there remains a lot of trepidation and misunderstanding about how it can be best used.
That was the view expressed by Canberra’s IT leaders — even those who are generally supportive of Cloud computing — when the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit sought out their opinions and insights earlier this year during a review of current practice and attitudes.
Some government executives are fearful of losing control over digital assets that are critical to the business. Debate over the COVIDSafe app, for instance, prompted questions about data sovereignty given the involvement of global Cloud providers.
According to Rubrik’s Jamie Humphrey, it is important for government agencies to consider Cloud as a fundamental part of their IT strategies, rather than a separate thing.
“Cloud applications are already a feature of many government IT environments – for the past few years many have been using Office 365 and several other SaaS offerings.”
However, Humphrey says, the concerns are understandable.
“There’s still the concept that the majority of government data is people’s data – their personal information – so there’s apprehension around losing control once it leaves the building. There’s the fear that if something goes wrong it will be perceived that was because control of that data was handed off to a third party. And government is 100 per cent a popularity business.
“So it’s about trying to keep constituents’ data as close as possible.
“There can also be uncertainty about how much the Cloud’s going to cost and — again, because it is taxpayer-driven — there may also be some fear of Cloud cost blowout. That expenditure then needs to be justified back to the public.”
However, Humphrey says this public cloud ‘bill shock’ can be avoided with a comprehensive strategy that ensures any migration is done right the first time.
Many executives speaking to the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit acknowledge concerns about costs. Some say it is hard to calculate costs, which in turn makes it difficult to budget unless everyone along the chain of decision-making is on board with the approach.
The observation of one IT executive we interviewed was typical: “It is a fear of the unknown. It can be simpler and less risky for development activity, but for major infrastructure replacements or the like, the costs can be quite significant — especially if you get the sums wrong. For this reason, many agencies go with a lower-risk model of using VM-based Cloud workloads.
“I am not really a fan of this [though there are certainly occasions where it is perfectly valid] as I believe one of the greatest benefits of moving to Cloud is the ability to decompose a system into its component parts and treat each component in a manner that is best suited to it — like moving databases into a PaaS for example. Also, the hyperscale providers have very different cost models to the local, often VM-based Cloud providers, and charging for things like transactions and network traffic are not metrics that most organisations are familiar with and can calculate.”
Another concern of Canberra’s IT leaders is the perception that there is a lack of Cloud skills in the local market, although there is an acknowledgment that there has been a concerted effort to improve this by the government and vendors alike and that this is starting to take effect.
However, there are enclaves where many technical leaders remain largely oblivious to the potential benefits of Cloud, which can lead to push-back.
Prime system integrator Leidos Australia’s Practice Lead for Digital Modernisation, Frank Turcic, lists several hurdles around Cloud adoption and consumption, including fear and resistance to change in moving to a Cloud consumption model.
“For example, large-scale adoption of Cloud automation is causing concern among IT operations staff, who fear that automating operational tasks could make them obsolete, rather than appreciating how it can reduce manual and repetitive tasks allowing them to focus on evolving other areas of the IT enterprise,” he said.
Other hurdles, according to Turcic, include competency in terms of moving away from familiar legacy infrastructure to a hosting model that requires continuous knowledge, learning and training; complexity with changes associated with IT processes and procedures; modernisation of legacy infrastructure, applications and development methods; and migrations and coordination of both on-premise and off-premise Cloud elements — for example, infrastructure, storage, and servers — which have to be patched and secured.
This article was produced by the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Membership fees apply.