A cloudy outlook

April 6, 2012

I had been challenging a major software developer over the last few years as to how they were going to deal with moving their services to some sort of ‘cloud’ solution. I’d then heard from a major hardware and ‘cloud’ provider that they were holding conversations with a software company that sounded very much like the one I’d been baiting. Having, as one of my last actions, pointed out the many errors in their ways to the software house before I left my job, I got a response to the question of ‘cloud’-based applications, which was interesting since I am preparing an academic paper on ‘clouds’.

The senior person at the supplier told me that they had been making pretty detailed investigations into hosting their applications as a cloud platform. One key outcome is that it became most viable if they hosted them, rather than having them hosted by a third-party – that’s according to their figures. A further revelation was how they could actually sell them at a realistic price – sticking applications in the cloud takes away many of the other costs around local hosting be that electricity, cooling, hardware and software upgrading that don’t necessarily appear in an IT revenue budget, but these costs will then appear in any ‘per seat’ costs the supplier has to charge to make a profit. This takes us back to the challenges around government accounting principles dealt with in earlier posts, and which my supplier friend agreed with.

Whilst efficiencies of scale are necessarily a key saving in general government processes, when it comes down to avoiding a multiplicity of data centres, each with their own power, ‘tin’, security, networking, cooling and management, if local authorities are all running the same application for the same service, there has to be a change of view – this has to be planned for sooner rather than later…



November 13, 2011

A new website was launched on 1 November 2011 with the interesting title of safegov.org. The site is apparently designed to provide government stakeholders with accurate and credible information, resulting in more well-informed decisions about the growing universe of cloud marketplace offerings. According to their launch press release ‘Inaugural SafeGov.org contributors include Michael Chertoff, former United States Secretary of Homeland Security and Managing Principal and co-founder of the Chertoff Group and David Howe, CEO of Civitas Group LLC’, so it is very US focused.

It’s useful to have a central source of information on this hot topic but I’m not sure how much additional value a new wizzy website will add to some of those mentioned last May. We will no doubt, some time in the future, find a site that is unbiased, has full coverage and presents a ‘warts and all’ picture of the cloud providers, but until then…

Green cloud

September 1, 2011

Following up on the previous posts around how green ‘cloud computing’ is, a piece on the Scientific American web site reveals some support for its green credentials. In “Is There a Silver Lining for the Environment in Cloud Computing?” dated 10 August 2011, the author of the report, that comes to them via Climatewire, expresses the view that while efficiency and consolidation of data centres are beneficial, there is a need for them to employ clean data sources, as reviewed in the blog post Dirty Old Cloud in April 2011, regarding a related report by Greenpeace.

Cloud computing, server and data centre rationalization and the Public Sector Network will all be components of the forthcoming Greening Government ICT Strategy, but, as the article states, these will be of less benefit if nothing changes about the source of the power used in government offices and sites.

Might we see the UK coalition government looking towards green power sources for government data centres and buildings, and requiring the same of outsourced services?

Dirty old cloud?

April 26, 2011

Thanks to the Register which pointed me to a report from Greenpeace – How dirty is your data centre 2011. I’d queried the green credentials of cloud computing in March 2011, with ‘How green is my cloud‘, but this report, whilst establishing and supporting the potential value of cloud computing, looks at the dirty detail behind the silver lining.

The report ensures that we consider the entire chain of being from electricity production onwards, but focuses on sources of energy used by some big users, their transparency and alternatives. Great work, but there are obviously a number of other ways in which the cloud might impact upon the environment in comparison with other ways of delivery. In the same way one can have food miles, there is the possibility of data miles to be calculated comparing the cost of all that old tin and the energy used and the costs in recycling and replacing the kit after a suitable lifetime.

The Tory take

July 5, 2009

Published by the Centre for Policy Studies is a view from a Conservative councillor on the present government’s IT policy, particularly in the arena of personal data – It’s ours. The report by Liam Maxwell is a useful read for anybody working in government IT since it may be the approach subsequent to the next election!

For me it has an awful lot of sense, as can be found in earlier posts, I was never quite happy with the ‘deep truth’  that central government wanted us to seek, I never treated it as personal imformation, just a lot of mumbo-jumbo that would never help anybody. It also identifies the limited use being made of electronic government ‘services’.

In fact in terms of evaluating IT projects, one of the issues raised, Cabinet Office has already got its own rottweiler investigating – Stephen Jenner – who I met at ECEG2009, and whose book I bought, which is largely common sense and to save you the fifteen  quid here’s an interview from the CIPFA PinPoint magazine – CipfapinpointJune09 – he’s also looking for people to do a survey for him –ABRMsurveyv1.0eceg

Importantly for this researcher Maxwell does state that “Putting the citizen, and not the government, at the centre of IT design can have startling results.” (P.14)

One place I would argue with the report is on P.16, where it states that ” information acquired for one purpose in the public sector may be used for another entirely different purpose”, if that had been the case the delivery of electronic government would have been much easier and I’d argued with a senior civil servant about that being a barrier some years ago, and nothing eased.

The same applies to Service Oriented Architecture and Cloud Computing, both praised in the book and both being promoted at Cabinet Office, unfortunately the governmental monolith moves slowly and acceptance of these concepts will take time.

Having said that, I welcome a fresh political take on the frequently ignored (by politicos) area of government IT and don’t disagree with any of the conclusions, however implementing them through Whitehall may be a different matter…