How green is my cloud?

March 10, 2011

Being a proponent of the G-Cloud, but also a long-time environmental activist leaves me in a quandary – how  green is the ‘cloud’? A report by James Urqhart of the Wisdom of Clouds on ‘Cloud computing’s green paradox‘ was a useful guide, establishing that “the “greenness” of cloud computing is a kind of Schroedinger’s box problem today, in which we won’t know the actual savings to the environment until someone actually observes–or measures–it”.  Another person pushing the need for measurement is the Greenmonk.

There is obviously a very fine balance to be drawn between having a fully resilient data centre with lots of empty rack space using electricity for air-conditioning, delivering services over a crumbling network infrastructure that is leaking power with numerous balanced data centres delivering local  services over an efficient local network. How will anybody know? Will anybody check? It has to be done by measuring the Kilo Watt/Hours over an extended period for both server rooms, desktop and local area and wide area networks. Perhaps importantly, have we got our local measurement done to set a benchmark before we set out on this adventure?

Has anybody come up with a tidy model that includes end-to-end costs in relation to performance, before and after?



February 22, 2011

In government IT one get’s used to the fact that you can’t win. In my view the answer to the Balkanization of government IT is more efficient sharing of applications, better procurement of applications and better sharing of data (if and when required), in other words the G-Cloud. The Cabinet Office in the UK has now released the documents envisioning G-Cloud Programme Phase 2.

Unfortunately, some people see this as another way of sharing citizen data amongst government and a mechanism of circumventing the now dumped ID card project! The latest portrayal of this view is in Computer Weekly.

In contrast to this view I’d argue that if we are to reduce the number of government data centres, reduce the cost of data connections, cut the charges paid to a shrinking band of suppliers (who have local government by the short & curlies) and reduce support costs, we have to look to another way of delivering IT services. G-Cloud can be the only way.

G-Cloud gives government the opportunity to dictate standards, quality and support to a level that the current regime of ‘divide and rule’ by suppliers has never permitted. It starts to give government IT the upper hand for once, so I can see why some won’t suppliers like it, but as to willy-nilly data-sharing – I don’t think so!

We are the CHAMPS

November 4, 2010

Whilst we were at the Local CIO Council meeting on the 3 November 2010, Glyn Evans of Birmingham City Council proudly announced the ‘official’ launch later that day of CHAMPS2.

In their own words “CHAMPS2 is a vision led, benefits driven business change method which is broad in scope and encompasses the whole business change journey. It helps you define your organisation’s strategic needs, and then provides a tailored route to ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved”.

Even better, it’s free!

If that wasn’t enough, although the consultation is over for the moment, the guidelines for open data publication are available from the Socitm, CIPFA, LeGSB, LGA, CLG group that has been working on them. So if you are in the UK, or even if you are not, you may find the LG Group Transparency Programme of interest?

Even better, we had a brief but beneficial discussion with Andrea di Maio about Clouds, G-Clouds and related matters. Nice  to finally see him in the flesh!

A lesson in efficiency

August 5, 2010

In the Municipal Journal of 22 July 2010 is a piece by Paul Bradbury of Civica entitled “budgets & efficiency – there is thinking outside of the box”. The piece draws upon public finance body CIPFA‘s survey of finance directors in April. As one can probably intuit the survey was sponsored by Civica.

Surprise, surprise that two of the bullet-pointed ‘strategic responses’ identified both by the survey and Civica were “extending outsourcing as part of a pragmatic service delivery mix, and using managed IT and related business services”, along with “re-engineering entire frontline to back-office processes at the corporate departmental level”.

No argument with the second one but advise doing it BEFORE outsourcing, otherwise you are giving away ALL the profit, however the first one should be a dead duck in the water from experiences of ten years of e-government! Strategically having ones IT managed, if one has a suitable contract in place is one thing, but you can just look back at the cases where it has been brought back in-house, or would have been if the financial penalties hadn’t been so large.

With G-Cloud looming the possibilities for managed IT are formidable, but does this require outsourcing, I don’t think so.

Citizen engagement

August 3, 2010

I’d hate to fall out with William Heath but one of his latest posts about the private sector holding citizen data I found challenging from my situation as an experienced IT worker, government employee and representative on various local government IT bodies, plus a long association with the voluntary sector.

One of the conundrums of government is that is delivers a lot of different services, some of them of critical importance to the well-being of many people. The data it holds is frequently necessary for that service delivery. Every time there is an issue where one arm of government, perhaps the police, is not privy to something held by social services, there is uproar about the lack of data sharing. Every time someone, usually in central government and frequently detached from the person-in-the-street, loses some data there is also uproar.

William’s solution appears to be to give citizens control  of that data. Can anyone in their right mind see a child abuser or someone with mental health issues maintaining their data correctly? I’m not saying the state is any better at holding the data than the private sector, but they do not have the same interests. The private sector has to make a profit. How will it do this but by charging potential users of the data for access to it?

With the approaching G-Cloud and Public Sector Network there is a big debate about who holds what data where. The ‘blue light’ services are emphatic about the need to have data at their finger-tips, they also know from many recent cases that this has to be shared relatively easily and quickly with others, as does child protection data, mental health records and much other data from other sources.

If the concensus answer is not to share data then don’t come out with screams of outrage when children die from neglect, abuse or attack. This is an extreme example of data sharing, but there are a lot more less critcal ones where data sharing is beneficial to the data subject.

Let’s try and view this in the round, rather than constructing some sort of shoddy data edifice that will crumble at the first push!