The Federal Government has boasted of a strong industry response to its cloud computing plans, with some 200 vendors interested in its data centre as-a-service (DCaaS) procurement program so far.
AGIMO first assistant secretary John Sheridan refuted claims that the Government had taken too tentative an approach to the cloud, noting that its DCaaS tender documents had been downloaded 200 times since their release on 31 July.
Sheridan told the Technology in Government and Public Sector Summit last week that the Australian Government had already implemented many cloud technologies, highlighting virtualisation as an example.
He said large Commonwealth agencies ran 2.3 virtual servers for each physical server – small compared to a theoretical maximum of 60:1, but higher than the world average of 1.9.
Sheridan asserted that the Australian Government was closing in on cloud computing opportunities, noting that it had access to reliable high-speed networks, commodity server hardware, open web 2.0 standards and open source technology.
Certain citizen-facing services, business process and applications were already hosted on virtual servers, private and “community cloud” infrastructure, he noted, with the latter referring to arrangements in which large agencies might provide cloud services to their peers.
He said those services could move to public cloud platforms in three to five years’ time, joining some of the Government’s websites, online channels, processing and storage on the likes of Salesforce, Amazon or Rackspace.
Meanwhile, citizen information would be moved to private cloud environments within two years, to government community clouds within five years, and to the public cloud within ten years, Sheridan predicted.
Sheridan highlighted a need for the right levels of encryption and service level agreements, noting that the Government sought to “balance the risks”.
Government data also offered unique challenges in terms of the lengths of time it had to be maintained and accessible, he said, explaining that military personnel records were stored for 130 years, and other records stored for seven years – covering four or five generations of technology over that period of time.
“Sometimes Government is accused of being too conservative in moving this way [into cloud computing],” he said. “It’s always interesting to get that balance right.
“We won’t put all our eggs in the one cloud basket. We’ll think about what we do. We’ll carefully manage that over time.”