Now the Cloud Draws Governments

G Joslin Vethakumar
Head – Bid Management (South-East Asia), BT

Innovation has now hit the sky as public and private sector entities have begun to embrace cloud-based service models with fervour

The current cloud burst involves using the Web to deliver IT services on demand and at a scale needed

So much has been written about the “cloud” that the expression, not the    paradigm, has now almost become a cliché. This does not, however, mean that it is all-pervasive. While it has begun to make inroads into even verticals that are traditionally cautious (finance, for example), the concept remains nascent when it comes to acceptance by governments around the world.

That is set to  change now with the Barack Obama administration having recently mandated that all U.S. government agencies should default to secure, reliable and cost-effective cloud-based solutions, thereby moving away from the earlier practice of building their own technologies in-house.

Two key factors may have  resulted in the directive:

l .The successes realized by those governmental institutions that were quick to adopt the cloud
2. The fact that there are more  than 2000 ederal data centres that are operating well below their peak  capacity. Clearly, this is not efficient use of cash resources

When secure, cost-effective, usagebased options are available, why spend big on infrastructure that will remain underutilised? No wonder then that the  Federal Government also plans to reduce the number of its data centres by 40  per cent by 2015 and realize instant cost savings. This is the advantage of going  virtual with data centres. An acceleration in cloud adoption by public sector  entities in the U.S. can thus be anticipated.

It is not just the U.S. that is going the cloud way, governments worldwide have already begun to see merit in it as  well. Canada also announced recently that the government planned to create a  private cloud for its IT infrastructure and for information sharing.

Singapore, a  Trailblazer: Within the Asia-Pacific region, the Singapore government is already  a trailblazer, having been operating its own private cloud for the last few years to fuel its ICT infrastructure and services. Moreover, its Ministry of  Education adopted an open standard cloud platform in September 2009, thus  becoming the first government in Asia to equip all its teachers with Web 2.0  communication and collaboration tools.

Also, the Youth Olympic Games (YOG)  held in August 2010 in Singapore showed how cloud computing could be leveraged for even major events. Instead of buying the tools needed, the YOG organisers used cloud services to realise cost savings of around 80 percent.

Another Outsourcing Wave that India can Tap: Interestingly, India too is well  poised to take advantage of the cloud in a big way with its sound IT ecosystem though it must vigorously pursue a high bandwidth environment. The cloud can fall within the ambit of Outsourcing 2.0 given the nature of the services offered. India has been the frontrunner in Outsourcing 1.0, with the low-cost  phenomenon involving moving services across countries to be served by  people – through Business Process Outsourcing, Offshoring, Call Centres, etc.

The current cloud burst involves using the Web to deliver IT services on demand and at a scale needed. It is a service- based model, with the Web as the delivery mechanism, taking businesses and governments into a virtualised world where all data reside within a network cloud, not on a server within their establishment or on a local computer. It gives them the option to have a third  party run their infrastructure. A recent Ernst & Young survey showed that  more than 70 percent of India’s IT infrastructure companies will go big on the cloud in the next two or three years. The Indian government can also be  expected to draw on the potential of the cloud.

Recessionary Trends and Outsourced Service Offerings: But just what   is cloud computing all about and what are its key benefits for pubic and private  sector entities? It is an OpExbased business model that was born when   organisations began to feel that they did not need expensive infrastructure, only the services they deliver. This makes economic sense now more than ever with recessionary trends having become increasingly cyclical and making even large organisations revisit their strategies as the benefits of renting, not owning,  services/infrastructure outweigh the risks. The result is a wave of outsourced service offerings such as Communication as a Service (telephony, email), Infrastructure as a Service and Software as a Service. As the haze over this new-generation evolution has begun to clear, you can now get Anything as a Service ((AaaS).

Benefits for Governments and Businesses: The game-changing cloud
features location-independence and gives governments and businesses many benefits. They include reduced financial risk (as the cloud eliminates big  upfront investments) and lower costs as the multi-tenanted approach (sharing  of infrastructure) enables economies ofscale. The pay-per-use model makes it even more appealing.

They no longer need to have a big inventory of different types of servers and  expensive equipment (as well as applications) to run their operations through  their own dedicated IT infrastructure. Then there is a need to have a big  number of specialist staff to maintain the infrastructure round the clock, adding  to their costs.

The cloud changes it all by equipping governments and businesses with greater  efficiency by helping them scale quickly as their requirements evolve. Storage  capacity can be increased as soon as a need for it arises. For instance, if they  have a need for new server capacity they do not have to spend big on a new  system and wait weeks to beef up their infrastructure. By getting on the cloud,  governments will also have the ability to speed up the rollout of e-services.  With evolving technological changes, governments can reach out better to  citizens and businesses. Citizens are already feeling empowered with disruptive  technologies such as the social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). They  can be served better by governments that harness the cloud to deliver efficient  services.

Game-Changing Transformation: As can be seen, it is a lot more than  the cost factor that is driving cloud adoption. It is in fact a game-changer with  the cloud being a part of the transformation the communications industry is  pitching itself on to cope with the explosion in content spawned by the video  revolution that is gaining ubiquity. Interestingly, video is expected to account  for more than 65% of all mobile data traffic by 2013.

Cloud computing is thus  viewed as necessary next step for transforming the way data centre resources  are deployed, configured and managed so as to make the “Everything as as  Service” delivery model effective, classic, scalable and sustainable”.  Significantly, Cloud services help businesses conserve energy through  environment-friendly use of data centres. Governments keen to go green in an  effort to lower their carbon footprint will thus find it compelling.

The cloud changes it all by equipping governments and businesses with greater  efficiency by helping them scale quickly as their requirements evolve. Storage capacity can be increased as soon as a need for it arises

It is no  surprise then that research firm Gartner projects revenue from cloud services  to grow from $56 billion in 2009 to $150 billion in 2013. Gartner also says the  cloud is one of the top three priorities of CIOs, the other two being virtualisation and Web 2.0, all of which are interlinked. While APAC revenues from cloud are still small, IDC estimates the market will expand at a rate of  about 40% a year until 2014.

Security: A multi-layered security mechanism  helps address concerns over data integrity and protection. Also, with a private  cloud, organisations get the ability to deliver on-demand services without  having to compromise on the security and stability offered by a traditional data  centre. The virtual data centre yields real benefits.

The strength of  transport intelligence at the network, service and application layers coupled  with a next-generation, virtual data centre and a private cloud framework should help allay any security fears. Service providers who help businesses  with the cloud will manage their risks.

Government environments are complex  where processes hold sway, compounded by an IT infrastructure that gives  them little room for upgrades without massive investments. The cloud will  allow them to cash in on the latest in innovation and enhance productivity without having to fork out big bucks. Significantly, governments and businesses  alike will not be left behind technology trends as service providers delivering cloud services will address all upgrade requirements.

End-to-end  service management is critical for increasing availability, managing complexity  and contributing to efficient services and enhanced profitability. The cloud can enable that, delivering innovative services that are more than a  pie in the sky and keeping both the corporate sector and governments future- ready.