Sunday, 1 November 2009

Public Sector and Cloud Computing

If you are not familiar with the concept of Cloud Computing, then please read my previous article entitled What the heck is cloud computing. In essence, Cloud Computing uses virtualisation technologies and the Internet as the platform for deploying applications. One of the key drivers for deploying applications to the Cloud is to make cost savings.

Private sector vs public sector
With the US and Japan already a part of the Cloud Computing public sector revolution, it was high time the UK followed suit. There is a lot of potential for long term change in the way in which public services are delivered in the UK, as well as relieving the financial burden on the tax payer.

Cloud Computing has already been widely adopted within the private sector, with many large and diverse enterprises taking advantage of the cost reductions and increased productivity that are on offer. Cloud Computing will usually involve renting a service on a pay-as-you-go basis. In comparison, procuring the service will involve having to purchase the necessary hardware, software licences and additional support, training and other operational costs. The application in its entirety will be deployed to a third party supplier, leaving the client to get on with their business. This model frees up the client from a heavy IT investment.

The story is different within the public sector, where the reputation of IT projects and their delivery has been less than outstanding. The long list of troubled IT projects includes such well known establishments as the DWP, MoD and the NHS. Even worse, is that the situation doesn't seem to be getting any better.

Cloud Computing could be a possible solution to these sorts of publicly funded IT projects, by introducing genuine transformation to the delivery of government services.

Possible incentives
The recent Digital Britain report has recommended that the UK should deploy what is known as the G-Cloud. This would allow local and central government to share centrally hosted applications. This would then lead to substantial cost savings in public spending by building a government wide Cloud Computing platform. Key savings would come from reducing the number of data centres, reducing overall IT spend (hardware, licences), and lower maintenance and security costs.

There would also be other positive side effects to such an endeavour. The creation of a single application platform would encourage the adoption of increased levels of sharing, as well as standardisation of IT services across multiple departments. It could also lead to better service delivery during periods of peaks and troughs of demand, which is critical for e-Government service delivery.

Putting the theory into practice
This theory is currently being put into practice. A role has been created within the Cabinet Office who will be responsible for formulating and managing the implementation of the G-Cloud. The Conservative Party has committed to reviewing, and possibly replacing the NHS National Programme for IT with a Cloud Computing based alternative, in the event they win the next election. If applied successfully to one such project there is no reason to suppose it could not be applied with equal success to other projects.

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