The cloud is the biggest wave of change to hit the tech industry. When businesses world over are expecting huge benefits through cloud adoption, there are no reasons as to why the governments should lag behind. The broad picture is that experts suggest that the public sector is gradually becoming aware of the promises of the cloud and adoption rates are also going up. Strategies are being rolled out worldwide, investments are being planned for cloud computing, but most things are still on an evaluation stage.
According to the AMD 2011 Global Cloud Computing Adoption, Attitudes and Approaches Study, around 37 per cent of global businesses have deployed the cloud models in some way, whereas only around one-fourth of the public enterprises are on the cloud. Interestingly, a very large percentage is evaluating and investigating its benefits and implications.
As concerns and hype surrounds the cloud, there is a clear need to cut through the myths and encourage adoption. There have been talks on how the US government can help increase cloud adoption in a big way and when will other countries follow suit.
Adoption Picks Up
Cloud is now more of a reality than just hype and is changing the way enterprises are doing business. This is surely acting as an eye opener for most government agencies that are looking to revive and transform their service delivery capabilities. There is more interest for the cloud now and adoption is going up, but there is a clear difference in the way different countries are approaching the cloud.
Taking a quick look across various geographies, US and UK seems to be reasonably ahead in their cloud adoption strategies. The US Federal Budget 2011 puts a strong focus on cloud as a strategy to drive down costs and bring efficiencies. According to the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy (2011), an estimated $ 20 B can be moved to the cloud out of the $ 80 B US IT spending.
|Cloud Adoption by US Federal Government
By 2014, over $ 1Bn of the federal IT budget would be devoted to the cloud. By moving to a cloud service, General Services Administration (GSA) now pays an annual total of $650,000 for USA.gov and all associated costs which is a cost savings of 72 per cent. The migration to the cloud is estimated to help Washington D.C. city government save 48 per cent on mail expenditures and the City of Los Angeles 23.6 per cent.
Source: KPMG report ‘The Cloud Changing the Business Ecosystem’
KPMG's The Cloud Changing the Business Ecosystem report, states that the United Kingdom is also not far behind in deploying a cloud adoption strategy. The British government is building a Government cloud application store which is expected to be the only channel for IT services procurement in the British government.
Government organizations across the Asia pacific too are swiftly finding their way to the cloud. Increasing need for Cost savings and flexibility in IT infrastructure are major reasons for the shift. As the thrust is more on security and the location of data centers, the APAC shows more preference for hybrid and private clouds.
What is Driving the Change?
Moving to the cloud is an inevitable change today and it is obvious that governments too are realizing this. As most of these agencies remain in the mid of budget constraints, the need to drive down cost is significant. Thus cost saving is the primary driver for cloud adoption in the government space. What else is driving the change? Operational efficiency and standardization are other areas that are critical for government. There is a high need for transparency and better interactions within communities to ensure that services are delivered effectively. The IT infrastructure needs for governments are massive, and the fast changing demands call for a high degree of flexibility and scalability. Cloud computing allows efficiency, standardization of procedures and improved flexibility. It helps in streamlining services and avoiding duplication, and offers all round efficiencies that can drive down costs significantly. Technology innovation is another benefit that cloud can offer to governments.
It is thus highly justified that more number of government organizations are turning to the cloud. A recent example of this is The state of Florida moving to a state-wide private cloud email solution offered by ACS, to deal with operational inefficiencies and duplication across agencies. Commenting on what the move holds for the state, Chuck Cliburn, Senior Vice President, ACS, says, “The shift will increase productivity and collaborate efforts between agencies.”
|ACS offers private cloud email solution to the State of Florida
Here are the excerpts from an interaction with Chuck Cliburn, ACS:
|The Problem: Over 30 separate email systems for the State Government of Florida resulting in operational inefficiency and duplication across agencies.
|The Solution: A single, unified email platform to be implemented and operated by ACS, A Xerox Company. The new system will be based on Microsoft Exchange 2010. Archiving and E-discovery will be based on Symantec products. Help desk services will be provided by ACS as part of the contract. The operational model is private-cloud solution operated within Florida.
The Estimated Benefits: The anticipated benefits include a common email directory, share calendars across agencies, improved archiving and discovery, improved security, improved disaster recovery and improved help desk services.
Hurdles to Cross
Even as the cloud is gaining popularity in the government space and adoption plans are in the pipeline, real implementation remains slow. There are numerous factors responsible for this. Security concerns are more prominent in the case of governments and CIOs lack trust in the cloud models. Coupled with that is the fear of losing control over the IT infrastructure and data. The AMD report states that 36 percent of global public sector is still investigating cloud solutions. Lack of IT skills and expertise to handle cloud implementation is also a big hurdle that is coming in the way of adoption. Another important factor to consider is that cloud models work on pay-per-use, on-demand basis, while IT budgeting is done much in advance. So it becomes difficult to predict demand while using cloud models.
What’s the way out? The Frost & Sullivan report suggests that there is a need for international legal and governance frameworks on cloud computing. It is also essential for policy makers to strike the right regulatory balance in ensuring flexibility, regulatory compliance and jurisdiction issues.
To capitalize on the cloud opportunity, governments need to have increased awareness and trust on how it works in reality. Service providers need to bust the myths and communicate clearly what the cloud solutions can offer and ensure that security issues are handled effectively. Building confidence is likely to act as a major catalyst for government cloud adoption in the long run and wake this sector up to the promises of the cloud.