Over the past 12 months, we’ve been exploring cloud transformation across the public sector. We traveled to the UK to talk to experts driving the change to understand the workings of a ‘cloud first’ policy and its subsequent challenges, writes Russell Macdonald, HPE CTO of public sector and hybrid cloud
A recurring theme was the inconsistency and confusion in the cloud definition and policy perspective. When discussing our documentary series, Conscious Hybrid, the cloud has been used interchangeably by many professionals and organizations. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines “cloud computing” as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared collection of configurable computing resources (eg networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be quickly configured and rolled out with minimal administrative effort or interaction with service providers”.
NIST defines ‘public cloud’ as one of four deployment models alongside public cloud, hybrid cloud, private cloud. While NIST is a US Government specification it is referenced by the UK Government in its first cloud policy. However, it does not set UK standards. Despite a widely accepted definition that includes many options for cloud computing, the UK Government specifically defines the cloud as a public cloud which further contributes to the confusion of the term itself.
The difference between public cloud, hyperscale cloud, hybrid cloud, private cloud, in some cases, has led organizations to find themselves stuck between strategies, platforms, operating models and financing methods.
The cloud policy first undoubtedly redefined the definition of the cloud from a technical choice of individual departments to a matter of government policy. The cloud should be viewed as an experience, or a way of using technology. So the technology strategy should still be based on the fundamentals of putting the right workloads, in the right place, for the right reason. This can be on-premises, private cloud, edge, multi-cloud and/or public cloud.
Cloud Computing is an evolution of IT in general. So the focus should shift to ‘how’ workloads are modernized according to cloud native design, instead of just thinking ‘where’ workloads are migrated. Over the past decade, the answer to ‘where’ has been the public cloud. This change in thinking is critical to delivering a digital government program moving forward.
With this in mind, we spoke to Paul Neville during his time as director of digital and ICT at the London Borough of Waltham Forest, to understand his view of ‘the cloud’ and the resulting path of change.
Paul’s explanation was in line with a cloud-first policy, seeing the public cloud as the answer to the crisis of transformation. With limited digital capabilities and budgets, the region is forced into a cycle of short-term value decisions rather than long-term impact, or the evolution of the region and its digital strategies. Compared to this and the rising digital expectations of citizens, the region had reached a critical moment where it needed to transform to meet their needs and prepare for the future.
Consciously taking a hybrid approach
The district has identified the public cloud as key to modernizing its technology by lifting and removing its aging workloads and applications. To reduce risk and keep costs efficient, the district has invested a lot of time in learning to better understand cloud technology and the value it can provide. Taking the time to understand what the cloud means to them has empowered them in-house in the same way that a unified cloud definition does.
Paul explained: “In order to scale, we knew we would have to test and invest in cloud technology. However, we understand that not all of our data and work is suitable for migration.
“Our on-premises data center allows us to store specific information where it works best and provides a data center that epitomizes disaster recovery. We have taken a hybrid approach in our journey to the cloud so we can leverage and leverage the benefits of the cloud. , while ensuring there is little or no disruption to the citizen experience.”
Most of the time experts consider cloud adoption as a pre-defined, yes or no – either full public cloud adoption or no. This is furthered by the cloud-first policy, which drives the use of the public cloud directly. Despite paving the way for the public cloud, the policy provides little guidance on how to get there, how to deal with legacy workloads, edge cases and sensitive data. All this our research suggests, should not, and may never, be the same as the public cloud environment.
The strong narrative of the public cloud has reinforced the bias that the public cloud is ‘good’, leading people to believe that everything else is ‘bad’ or ‘the old way of doing things’.
The lack of a universal cloud definition contributes to this. The public cloud is only one step towards modern traditional cloud technology and other options are available. A conscious mixed approach recognizes the value that each of those options brings in a pragmatic and strategic way.
We believe it’s time to consider a more conscious approach to cloud transformation – opening up to the opportunities and options offered by the cloud and a hybrid approach.
We continue to explore cloud transformation and share various strategies and approaches from public sector professionals. If you’d like to participate or share your ideas, reach out or join the conversation with #ConsciouslyHybrid.
Learn more about the host, Paul Neville
Read the Cloud Strategy Report
Watch the full documentary