ServiceNow speaks out on government cloud policy

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ServiceNow speaks out on government cloud policy

A second SaaS vendor claims that blanket security stifles uptake.

Hosted service desk vendor ServiceNow has joined the chorus of cloud providers critical of the Australian Government for not walking the talk on its commitment to cloud computing.

In a submission to communications minister Malcolm Turnbull, viewed by iTnews, the company has outlined examples of contract demands that have forced it to pull out of government tenders due to “over specified” security requirements.

Last week the Department of Communications published a similar submission from Microsoft, which hit out at the two-minister sign off required to host personal data on Australian citizens offshore.

ServiceNow has added its two-cents to the mix, arguing that the blanket application of pre-fab security requirements is also holding back adoption.

The Australian Signals Directorate’s information security manual is a common reference tool, it said, even where “low-value” information is concerned.

“The use of the ASD ISM as a security catchall has the effect of preventing most SaaS providers from considering providing services,” ServiceNow wrote in the submission. “The cost of achieving compliance with a large and complex security program can run to millions of dollars, which is difficult to justify when it only applies to a small revenue base.

“When requirements are inappropriately over-specified in relation the ISM recommendations ... [it] results in Cloud proposals being artificially and unnecessarily rejected as non compliant, leading to a missed opportunity for all parties.”

The vendor has also complained about agencies demanding operations be conducted via an ASD certified gateway.

ServiceNow's submission claims its two Australian facilities, which are both on the Government’s data centre panel, do not have the tick of approval, but to move out “would potentially cost millions of dollars, cause considerable disruption to existing customers without providing them with any measurable benefits and would have a very uncertain commercial outcome.”

Investing in space inside the two onshore facilities has not helped the company get around local data hosting rules either, the company said. The stumbling block for ServiceNow is a reliance on offshore support labour which can incur “incidental transfers” of customer data overseas.

It claims that meeting the government’s strict rules for keeping privacy-sensitive information onshore would require it hire 50 specialised staff just to support its government clients.

In the past, Turnbull has voiced his support for a ‘cloud first’ procurement policy for government agencies.

The Department of Finance is currently working on a new whole-of-government IT strategy, in keeping with the new government’s technology commitments made before the election. The document is due for release in 2014.

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