Federal CIO casts shadow over govt cloud ROI

A private cloud across federal government agencies may not yield a strong enough ROI to justify the business case, says Australian government CIO, Ann Steward.

Most agencies have in-house or contracted data centre operations to manage their IT infrastructure, so in theory a private cloud could be built across government to share the processing requirements and avoid over capitalising during peak periods.

Some agencies, like the Australian Bureau of Statistics, are already building private clouds to simplify infrastructure management.

Steward said cloud computing is an “interesting area” and she is seeing a lot of interest from agencies.

“What does cloud computing mean? It means different things to different people. It means shared services, it means outsourcing, it means capacity on demand,” Steward said.

Steward's position is in the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) within the federal Department of Finance and Deregulation. Earlier this month she spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce CIO Forum in Sydney.

“From within my CIO community we are looking at how cloud-type services have been exploited in other environments – both private and public sector.”

Steward says AGIMO is maintaining contact with peers in the UK and US and their work informs the Australian government’s strategy.

As for building a private cloud across agencies, Steward’s team at AGIMO is still investigating the feasibility of such a project.

“We are looking at what cloud-like services could be used," she said, adding a private government cloud may not have the full ROI that might be expected.

“Is a private cloud across government viable? That’s part of investigation that it still ongoing, as well as offerings that industry has for different cloud services."

In February, ARN reported service provider CSC was in discussions with federal government agencies around public and private cloud initiatives.

“How can we better manage some of the big bubble points that we get? When do we have to do a big build or pull it into business as usual operations,” Steward said.

Regarding work already being done by agencies, Steward says some already have infrastructure services provided by another entity in government.

“We are working to understand our overall portfolio and what capacity might agencies have to support other constituents," she said.

With privacy a peak concern for government agencies, including the physical location of the data, Steward said public clouds might be suitable for development and testing, subject to privacy and security considerations.

“We may not have data stored in public clouds, but we may build in an off-site cloud,” Steward said.

“Privacy is a big issue and there are sensitivities around safeguarding people’s data.”

Steward says of foremost importance to government is having a maturity of understanding around what cloud computing is before it commits to large projects.

This article forms part of an interview series with Australia’s federal government CIO Ann Steward. For other articles in the series, see:

Rodney Gedda is Editor of TechWorld Australia. Follow Rodney on Twitter at @rodneygedda. Rodney's e-mail address is rodney_gedda@idg.com.au. Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter at @Techworld_AU and CIO at @CIO_Australia.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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