The CIOs of Australia’s largest Federal Government agencies are engaged in informal discussions centred around the sharing of enterprise computing resources during peak periods.
The Department of Finance has long desired a consolidation of agency IT needs to cut down on the $4.3 billion it spends on IT every year.
Large agencies such as the Department of Human Services have already combined the IT resources of Centrelink and Medicare, and more recently announced the Department said it would absorb the IT requirements of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Human Services deputy secretary of IT infrastructure John Wadeson told iTnews in an extensive interview this week that chief information officers among these departments are informally investigating the ability to share capacity during periods of peak computational load.
“So for example, the Tax Office has four spikes a year when business tax is paid – we [at Human Services] could potentially help get them through those periods of time with some of our data processing systems,” Wadeson said.
“So conceptually, what we are discussing informally is the creation of a private Government cloud. We could share our resources from time to time – because at Human Services we have peaks as well.”
The technology that would underpin such resource sharing is server virtualisation.
IT departments with highly mature and virtualised server environments are today investigating the additional functionality offered by ‘chargeback’ reporting systems that accurately measure precisely what power consumption, server processing, network bandwidth or data storage a particular workload uses.
This would enable one agency to offer its IT resources to another and accurately charge for the service based on resource consumption.
“As virtualisation proceeds - and we are all getting better at it – it could help us divide workloads into more manageable pieces of work,” Wadeson said. “That’s the kind of discussions happening at the moment.”
The sharing of workloads could appease concerns in the community that consolidation of Government IT systems could lead to the linking of previously disparate databases.
Privacy advocates have pointed out the difficulties that could ensue, for example, if Tax Office profiles were linked with electronic health records or profiles used by welfare agencies such as Centrelink.
Wadeson has also revealed that Human Services was pulling out of several of its legacy data centres to move to a more modern, active-active two data centre footprint.