Technology heads in the public sector should look towards cloud computing for insights on designing next-generation government IT infrastructures that are flexible and can support a utility model, according to a report released on Thursday.
Steve Hodgkinson, Ovum's director of government practice, said agencies in the public sector face the same pressures this year to cut costs and boost operating performance. While governments worldwide are throwing in massive financial stimulus packages to jumpstart their local economies, the reality is that governments themselves are "being beaten by the hammer of the economic crisis".
Australia's government departments and agencies, for instance, have been told specifically to identify ways to reduce their daily IT expenses. Such austerity is expected to get worse before it gets better, Hodgkinson said. "CIOs need to be on the front foot with ways to make a change downward in their day-to-day IT costs, before the CFO cuts their IT budget anyway."
"Cloud computing appears to offer the potential of such a change in IT operating costs, enabling agencies to access other-worldly scale economies. Should public sector CIOs be tapping into the cloud?" he asked.
The analyst called for the industry to move past concerns about privacy and control over public data, and evaluate how cloud architectures can be applied to government IT operations.
Describing cloud computing as "the holy grail of utility computing", Hodgkinson said the platform will provide the ability to treat IT as "a ubiquitous, on-demand service", offering the flexibility to consume "as much, or as little, as is needed".
"This is made possible by virtualising applications from hardware so they can scale, architecting applications as multi-tenant web services, and simplifying the way users access applications via the internet," he added.
Most governments, he noted, are already looking to re-engineer their IT strategies and at ways to consolidate and standardise their IT infrastructures into a single network, serving all public-sector agencies.
However, governments make such work tougher by using "old paradigm" tools such as enterprise architecture, common applications and shared services, Hodgkinson said.
"Major IT services vendors are making massive investments in cloud-computing research and infrastructure, because they see the emergence of global IT utilities as the future of the industry," he said. "CIOs should be tapping this emerging body of knowledge and exploring ways to architect the next-generation of government IT infrastructure using cloud logic. Governments should understand when and where to leverage the cloud, and how to create agile public-sector clouds — not just a rehash of outdated, inflexible shared services and outsourcing arrangements."
In a survey released on Thursday by IDC Asia-Pacific, 17 percent of IT executives in the region said the market currently lacks cloud services to make the platform a compelling option. Regardless, some 41 percent indicated they were either evaluating or running pilot cloud-based products and services, while 11 percent were already running such applications.