​Commonwealth CTO: Choose an existing cloud model from the menu

The Australian government's CTO believes that as-a-service cloud-based offerings provide value for money for government, as long as the department does not want to customise its solution, like a customisable hamburger at McDonald's.

When it comes to government, John Sheridan, the Australian government CTO, believes that cloud-based as-a-service models offer value for money, providing departments accept a standard offering that does not have feature after feature tacked onto it.

Speaking at Criterion's Implementing an As-a-Service Model conference in Sydney on Tuesday, Sheridan likened the desire to modify or tack extras onto an as-a-service model to the way in which he could walk into a fast food restaurant and order a burger.

"I like McDonald's, there's all sorts of things I like about it: I like that it's the same, I like the consistency, you know what you're going to get when you buy McDonald's -- even though recently they've changed the menu and now in selected McDonald's you can design your own hamburger," he said.

"It's almost like taking your wife to a restaurant."

Sheridan said that in customising and designing a system for business, extra cost, extra time, and additional foundation is required.

"There's differences, there's changes in what that model brings and you need a lot of technology behind that model to start delivering something that isn't standard," he said. "If there's one change that buying things as-a-service makes to buying things for government, it's the acceptance that we aren't all that special."

"What you've got to do in buying those things and making use of an as-a-service model, is you've got to be prepared to sometimes change your processes to reflect the processes that you're purchasing, rather than going out and saying, 'Yes we really like this hamburger, we really like these fries, but we want to change them -- we'd like them cooked in that fat, we'd like them cut to a slightly different size, we'd like them delivered, not picked up'."

Sheridan said that whilst vendors are generally happy to make changes, often such changes add cost to the model and all of a sudden a business discovers that rather than a customised option being beneficial, it has become detrimental.

"This acceptance of we are not special, is to my mind the key to making use of these changes," Sheridan said.

"There are people who are special, there are parts of an organisation that are special, there are parts that need different things, so you might not want to have a complete as-a-service model, you might want to go and say: 'We'll put most of our business here, but that little part of the business that is special, we'll do in a slightly different way'."

The CTO said that whilst no one cloud model is better than the other, he reiterated the importance of remembering that when selecting a model, it is being provided by a vendor as standard, and a business may not benefit from trying to design its own.

Earlier in the day, Aaron Liu, CIO for the New South Wales Department of Justice, said the key to successfully implementing a business service is the relationship with the vendor.

"In some ways it's like getting in bed with your service provider, whether that's cloud or managed service, or even internally," he said. "Is it a hookup? Or is it a long term marriage -- a much deeper composition?"

Liu said the answer to tackling the move to as-a-service is about managing risk and putting the right commercial, technical, and service level controls around it to warrant which side of the relationship spectrum a particular item sits under.

"The market maturity and competitive nature [of those on the hookup side], where you can switch providers is almost as easy as swiping left or right," he said. "The other side's a prenup, a divorce, and potentially a much more protracted barrier to exit."

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