Fire & Rescue CIO risks reputation for cloud

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Fire & Rescue CIO risks reputation for cloud

Already given reason to 'choke' supplier IBM's throat.

When Fire & Rescue NSW revealed plans last year to move most of the agency's non-000 workloads to an IBM cloud hosted in NSW Government data centres, CIO Richard Host wasn't taking the project lightly.

"We were the first to use the IBM platform in Australia," Host told the recent CIO Strategy Summit. "That's been an interesting exercise."

Host said there had been a number of positives in making the decision to shift workloads off "five or six" year-old server and storage infrastructure.

"We gained 24x7 support, we gained hardware that was so much faster than anything we could naturally afford, and our systems ran three times faster without us doing anything [other than] just being on that [IBM] platform," Host said.

"It's flexible, we don't have to worry about capacity, we can just provision more whenever we feel like it."

Part of the performance gain is the result of 10Gbps dark fibre links that now connect the agency's "major offices" to the NSW Government data centres.

"We're basically on 10Gbps almost from the desktop to the data centre itself," Host said.

But being first on a new platform comes with risks, and some of those have materialised.

"You get one throat to choke and I have choked that throat because, to be fair, if you're going to be the first one to do something with a supplier no matter how big or experienced they are, you are going to have to expect some road bumps, and we have and are experiencing some road bumps," Host said.

While Host did not detail the nature of these "road bumps", he made it clear how serious the throat choking got. Even as a self-professed "disruptor" in government IT circles, he is under no illusion that his reputation is on the line.

"It's a pretty big thing to move just about all your stuff into someone else's hands, it's not to be taken lightly," he said.

"That's how CIOs or CTOs can lose their jobs straight away. 

"I haven't worked as hard as I have for the length of time I have to have it undone in one instant because I've gone and put [our IT] at risk."

He said things were "smoothing out", and similar moves to platform or infrastructure-as-a-service by other agencies would be inevitable.

"It is the way of the future," he said. "Other government agencies are coming onboard on that [IBM] platform."

Host also noted that Fire & Rescue NSW "didn't save any money as such" by moving into the cloud - challenging a common assumption that the cloud is an automatic path to cheaper IT operations.

"The cost of this is the same as what we've been paying the last six years," Host said. 

"The difference is that our environment is now many times faster, has better support, is in the NSW Gov DC, and has all this new connectivity. 

"So we get a heck of a lot more for the same price and that's locked in for the next five years."

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