Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ways To The Cloud

The Government's Cloud Strategy document will apparently shortly be issued.  It will move on from the previously published wider ICT strategy (which, itself, will be enhanced by an Implementation Plan) and elaborate how UK government will take advantage of cloud technologies.  Or, perhaps more likely, it will outline the "what" and leave the "how" to the next iteration of the document. With the gCloud procurement about to get underway - any day now I am told - here is my view of the "how" for cloud in government:

1) Starting now, UK government should never again purchase hardware for development or test environments; any such need will be met from pure public cloud "tin for rent" IaaS or from reuse of community/private cloud capability (this will inevitable require applications to be architected in a way that will make them cloud ready).

2) From today, any refresh of e-mail systems or deployment of new e-mail capability should be through public cloud or from usage-based private / community / shared within government clouds.  Alongside this, no department should use a collaboration capability that isn't in the public or private cloud (and, in the latter case, already in use by other departments)

3) Building on the existing "Foundation Development Partners", one department should take the lead in putting a single end to end process (rather than just a specific application) into the cloud.  A potential candidate could be case management - there are dozens, probably hundreds, of such processes in government, each implemented differently and with varying technology.  The FDP will eat its own dog food (get wet under its own cloud?) and move its own processes so that they are supported by this cloud - suggesting an early candidate could be from within the Ministry of Justice - and make all of it available for other departments too (with the aim that all such processes are supported from a common, or small number of consistent, cloud solutions within 3 years).

4) One department or public body should volunteer to make itself 80% cloud supported within 2 years.  Candidates would include departments where there is little transactional or clearly secure capability required - which might mean DCMS or DCLG.

That should get things off to an interesting start.  By doing these four things

  • Any department starting a new project will test out cloud (and will architect for future deployment to the cloud by default)
  • Anyone looking to refresh email (and given most departments are likely still on Office 2007 or earlier, that could be all of them) will take advantage of cloud-based mail so lowering their costs, allowing a wider range of mobile devices to connect to their e-mail (again lowering costs) and improving support for remote working
  • An end to end process will be tested in the cloud, for at least one department with relatively complex needs, so allowing government to understand the changes in business process, in operational rules and in the software procure / deploy process
  • One department will become the vanguard that all others can aspire to follow (or shy away in fear from)
These moves would not be without their troubles and challenges but they would allow the testing out of the benefits that cloud promises.

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