Over the past 12 months, we’ve been exploring cloud innovation across the public sector. HPE CTO of Public Sector and Hybrid Cloud, Russell Macdonald, traveled to the UK to interview change-leading technologists to understand the viability and ensuing challenges of a ‘cloud first’ policy.
The gap and confusion in the definition and policy of cloud has been a topic that has been raised several times. When interviewed for the documentary series Consciously Hybrid, cloud was used interchangeably by many technologists and organizations. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines “cloud computing” as “a model that enables ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services). ” is defined as We can provision and release quickly with minimal administrative effort or service provider interaction.”
NIST defines ‘public cloud’ as one of four deployment models, along with community cloud, hybrid cloud, and private cloud. NIST is a US government definition, but the UK government references it in its cloud-first policy. However, it does not set British standards. Despite a widely adopted definition uniting multiple options for cloud computing, the UK government specifically defines cloud-first as a public cloud which adds confusion to the term itself.
The distinction between public cloud, hyperscale cloud, hybrid cloud, and private cloud has in some cases found organizations caught between strategies, platforms, operating models, and funding paths.
The cloud-first policy reconfigured what cloud meant from an individual departmental technology choice to a whole-of-government issue. The cloud should be viewed as a way to consume experiences or skills. So your technology strategy should still be based on the fundamentals of putting the right workloads in the right places for the right reasons. It can be on-premises, private cloud, edge, multi-cloud and/or public cloud.
Cloud computing is an evolution of IT in general. So instead of just considering the ‘where’ the workloads are being migrated, the focus needs to shift to the ‘how’ the workloads are being modernized in terms of cloud-native design. For the past decade, the answer to ‘location’ has been the public cloud. This mindset shift is critical to delivering on the digital government agenda moving forward.
With this in mind, we spoke to Paul Neville when he was Director of Digital and ICT at the London Borough of Waltham Forest to understand his perception of the ‘cloud’ and his approach to innovation as a result.
Paul’s definition aligns with cloud-first policies that recognize public cloud as the answer to transformation challenges. With limited digital technology and budgets, the borough is forced into a cycle of short-term value decisions rather than the long-term impact or evolution of the borough and its digital strategy. As citizens’ digital expectations rise, the borough has reached a critical moment where it must transform to meet their needs and prepare for the future.
Consciously taking a hybrid approach
The borough initially identified public cloud as a key enabler for modernizing legacy technology by lifting and transforming aging workloads and applications. To reduce risk and remain cost effective, the borough has invested significant time learning to better understand cloud technology and the value it can provide. Taking the time to understand what the cloud means to them has allowed them to advance their skills in-house in a uniform way through an integrated cloud definition.
Paul explained: “We knew we needed to explore and invest in cloud technologies to scale. However, we understand that not all data and workloads are suitable for migration.
“Using an on-premises data center allows us to keep some of our information where it works best and provides a replicated data center for disaster recovery. We are taking a hybrid approach on our journey to the cloud, implementing and leveraging the benefits of the cloud. , with little or no disruption to the civic experience.”
Too often technologists see cloud adoption as a predefined yes-or-no option: whether to adopt a full-scale public cloud or not. This has been sustained by cloud-first policies that promote the use of public clouds in particular. Despite paving the public cloud path, policies provide little guidance on how to get there, how to handle legacy workloads, edge cases, and sensitive data. Everything suggested by our research is not and may never be suitable for a public cloud environment.
The entrenched public cloud narrative has reinforced the public cloud ‘good’ bias, leading people to believe that everything else is ‘bad’ or ‘the old fashioned way’.
The lack of a ubiquitous definition of the cloud contributes to this. Public cloud is just an instantiation of the latest cloud-native technologies, and other options are available. A conscious hybrid approach recognizes the value each option provides in a pragmatic and strategic way.
We believe it is time to consider a more conscious path to the cloud transition that is open to the opportunities and options offered by the cloud and a hybrid approach.
We continue to explore cloud innovation and share the different strategies and approaches public sector technologists are taking. To get involved or share your thoughts, reach out to #ConsciouslyHybrid or join the conversation.
Hear more from Paul Neville
Read the cloud strategy report
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