Interview

Data Security through Private Clouds : Dr. Ajay Kumar, IT Secretary-Government of Kerala, India

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Data Security through Private Clouds : Dr. Ajay Kumar, IT Secretary-Government of Kerala, India

Dr. Ajay Kumar
IT Secretary
Government of Kerala

www.kerala.gov.in

“Government is well aware of cloud and its potential. But people are just waiting to get it more matured and real. Cloud Computing has become the most exciting development and delivery alternative to arise in the new millennium. Right now, Cloud Computing is still in the early adopter phase, but will continue to move into mainstream adoption.”

The idea behind Cloud Computing is instead of buying and maintaining one’s own computing hardware, one rents hard drive space, database storage and computing power from a vendor. Is Cloud Computing really this simple?

For Service Providers, it is not as simple to make the services ready for you.  But for a user, it can be simple. It is like renting a fully serviced flat instead of buying a home of your own. However, user has restrictions and constraints to use a flat, and also not able to alter the flat as per own convenience. If you’re using google documents, you don’t have to worry about buying umpteen licenses for word-processing software or keeping them up-to-date. You can simply create a word document using google document.

What are the benefits of the Cloud Architecture? What are some of the reasons for which government agencies should adopt Cloud Computing for its applications?

The cloud architecture allows to rapidly allocate and de-allocate massively scalable resources on a demand basis. It gives flexibility to choose multiple vendors that provide reliable and scalable business services, development environments, and infrastructure that  can be leveraged out of the box and billed on a metered basis. The other benefits are scalability, high reliability, reduced costs due to operational efficiencies, and more rapid deployment of new business and reduce runtime and response time etc.

The three major IT implementation in  Government sector are IT facilitation in State Data Centre (SDC), automation of government work-flow and e-Governance projects. These three major areas required huge resources in terms of computing, networking and IT infrastructure. The State Data Centre (SDC) was set up by the Government of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram to boost the e-Governance activities of the state for server co-location, server sharing, SAN based mass storage, mail services, web services, enterprise management system etc. Some of the major e-Governance applications hosted in the Data Centres include digital workflow system– message, pay roll and personnel management system – SPARK, common admission allotment to general education  /higher education, general education results, treasury information system, core banking system for state bank, online VAT collection and reconciliation system, motor vehicles department, and other websites hosting. However, the actual capacity of Data Centre is underutilised, often some systems are idle, over provisioning, insuffi cient capacity planning and sizing. Adopting a cloud enabled Data Centre may overcome some of the above mentioned problems.

Kerala Government has started a number of e-Governance project to address the services of 39 Government Departments. Personnel and Payroll Management System using SPARK Service and Payroll Administrative  Repository for Kerala is one example, which requires huge amount of resources during the peak period of computation. SPARK – the Payroll and Personnel Management System demands huge amount of resources during the period of payroll processing of some 500000 employees which happen during the last week of the month. Such applications may face problems of poor response time of the system due to want of resources. The application like education departmentcommon admission counseling and results requires heavy traffi c only at the time of admission or result and the rest of time, the systems are idle. Pooling of resources in into large clouds in such cases will increase the utilisation of resources effectively. Aggregated IT infrastructures of cloud can also make it a lot simpler for government to maintain and support their IT.

Tell us about the Cloud Computing initiatives taken in Kerala, under your IT leadership?

Vide letter No. 5810/B1/09/ITD dated 12.10.2009, Government of Kerala has constituted a technical committee to examine the feasibility of setting up a Cloud Computing solution in Kerala under the Chairmanship of Secretary IT. The committee recommended to set up a pilot cloud facility in IIITMK as a research and technology development with technical support of C-DAC, Chennai. The work is now in progress.

What are implementation challenges in Cloud Computing deployment, with respect to the public sector in India?

Different Service Providers and Service Level Agreements (SLAs), data privacy in public cloud, open standards and interoperability, vendor lock-in are some of challenges.

Business continuity will continue to be a concern. Also for implementation, support of virtualisation in existing machines, integration with in-house IT applications, customisation, hardware and software compatibility, regulatory requirements etc. are some of the challenges. At present, major suppliers are also not readily available with an affordable cloud implementation.

Government data is sensitive and
private and therefore, needs to be  secured. How secure is the Cloud Environment?

Government may adopt for private cloud only, that to be built and managed within an enterprise only. The idea is to utilise the maximum resources in a more scalable, fl exible and lower cost. With the private cloud, data can be made secured.

What regulative and legal provisions need to made for securing data and information in the public cloud?

Cloud Computing is still evolving as a technology and we may see it mature over the next fi ve years or so. Securing data is more of a technical issue and
researches are on progress. Any IT services or applications are not suited for a cloud. A service roadmap to identify cloud services opportunities based on business needs, value proposition, and the ability to adopt/support those services is to be identifi ed. It is ideal to start with non-critical applications and non-sensitive data.

How aware are the government
departments in India about Cloud Computing? What efforts are being taken on building awareness on this issue?

Government is well aware of cloud and its potential. But people are just waiting to get it more matured and real. Cloud Computing has become the most exciting development and delivery alternative to arise in the new millennium. Right now, Cloud Computing is still in the early adopter phase, but will continue to move into mainstream adoption. With its economic, green and scalable development and delivery mechanism it is a gift to organisations.

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