Has the definition of ‘cloud’ added to the challenges?
Over the past 12 months, we have explored cloud transformation in the public sector. We scoured the UK to interview the technologists driving change to understand the viability of cloud-first policy and its subsequent challenges, writes Russell Macdonald, HPE CTO of Public Sector and Hybrid Cloud
One topic that came up time and time again was the disparity and confusion in the definition of cloud and the perception of politics. During interviews for our documentary series, Consciously Hybrid, the cloud was used interchangeably by many technologists and organizations. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines “cloud computing” as “a model that enables ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be quickly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or interaction with the service provider”.
NIST defines “public cloud” as one of four deployment models alongside community cloud, hybrid cloud, and private cloud. Although NIST is a US government definition, it is referenced by the UK government in its cloud first policy. However, it does not set the standards for the UK. Despite the widely adopted definition that incorporates multiple options for cloud computing, the UK government specifically defines cloud first as a public cloud, which further contributes to the confusion in the term itself.
The distinction between public cloud, hyperscale cloud, hybrid cloud, private cloud has, in some cases, led to organizations getting stuck between strategies, platforms, operating models, and funding pathways.
Cloud-first policy has arguably reframed the meaning of the cloud from a technology choice for individual departments to a government-wide policy issue. The cloud should be seen as an experience or a way to consume technology. A technology strategy should therefore always be based on the fundamental principles of putting the right workloads, in the right place, for the right reason. This can be on-premises, private, edge, multi-cloud, and/or public cloud.
Cloud Computing is an evolution of computing in general. The focus therefore needs to be on “how” workloads are modernized in terms of cloud-native design, rather than just considering “where” workloads are migrated. For the past decade, the answer to “where” has been the public cloud. This shift in mindset is key to advancing the digital government agenda.
With this in mind, we spoke to Paul Neville when he was Director of Digital and ICT at the London Borough of Waltham Forest, to understand his perception of the ‘cloud’ and the resulting approach to transformation.
Paul’s definition was in line with the cloud first policy, viewing the public cloud as the answer to transformational issues. With limited digital skills and budget, the Borough was forced into a short-term value decision-making cycle rather than the long-term impact or evolution of the Borough and its strategy. digital. In addition to citizens’ growing digital expectations, the borough had reached a critical moment when it had to transform itself to meet their needs and prepare for the future.
Adopting a consciously hybrid approach
The borough has identified the public cloud as a key enabler to modernize its legacy technology by initially lifting and moving its aging workloads and applications. To reduce risk and maintain profitability, the Borough has invested significant time in learning to better understand cloud technologies and the value they can bring. Taking the time to understand what the cloud means to them allowed them to improve their skills internally in a uniform way with a unified definition of the cloud.
Paul explained, “To scale, we knew we had to explore and invest in cloud technology. However, we understand that not all of our data and workloads are suitable for migration.
“Our on-premises data center allows us to keep certain information where it works best and provides a replica of the data center for disaster recovery. We’ve taken a hybrid approach on our journey to the cloud so we can put implement and leverage the benefits of the cloud, while ensuring little to no disruption to the citizen experience.”
Too often, technologists look at cloud adoption as a pre-determined yes or no option, whether it’s large-scale public cloud adoption or not. This has been perpetuated by the cloud first policy, which specifically encourages the use of the public cloud. While it paves the way for the public cloud, the policy offers little guidance on how to get there, how to handle legacy workloads, edge cases, and sensitive data. Not everything our research suggests is, and may never be, suitable for public cloud environments.
An unwavering public cloud discourse has reinforced prejudices that the public cloud is “good,” leading people to believe that everything else is “bad” or “the old way of doing things.”
The lack of a pervasive definition of the cloud contributes to this. The public cloud is just one instance of modern cloud-native technology and other options are available. A consciously hybrid approach recognizes the value that each of these options brings pragmatically and strategically.
We believe it’s time to consider a more conscious path to cloud transformation – to be open to the opportunities and options that the cloud and a hybrid approach offer.
We continue to explore cloud transformation and share the different strategies and approaches taken by public sector technologists. If you want to participate or share your views, reach out or join the conversation with #ConsciouslyHybrid.
Learn more about Paul Neville Read the cloud strategy report Watch the full documentary