Australia-wide AWS deal could signal the end for legacy IT procurement

The whole-of-government deal with Amazon Web Services highlights a new approach to IT procurement and a better level of understanding where cloud is concerned.

The Australian government's attitude towards cloud has been very positive, and according to Amazon Web Services (AWS) Worldwide Public Sector Asia Pacific regional managing director Peter Moore, what's prevented an all-in approach has been legacy arrangements and a traditional approach to procurement.

Speaking with ZDNet following the announcement that AWS had signed a new whole-of-government deal with the Commonwealth of Australia, allowing all federal, state, and territory agencies and departments, as well as public universities and government-controlled corporations, to access AWS Cloud services, Moore said the deal points to the level of maturity of the Australian government. At least where cloud is concerned.

"What has got in the way of the adoption of cloud has been, I would say, legacy arrangements, legacy ways of thinking about how do you procure and use cloud, moving away from that fixed price or even pay up front context to a more of a pay-as-you-go model," he said.

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"That sort of capability comes through really a state of maturity for the Australian government in realising that cloud computing is very different from traditional IT and this procurement mechanism ... is an example of the maturity of thinking around procurement, which is sometimes lagging from the actual adoption of cloud."

Moore said he wouldn't at all characterise the Australian government as being behind on cloud adoption, comparing the nation to peers specifically in the Asia-Pacific region. Instead, he said AWS would consider the Australian government to be in a leadership position.

Pointing to a recent report from Deloitte Access Economics that looked at government adoption of cloud, Moore said 94% of government sector leaders in Australia said that procurement processes needed to be modernised.

"Most of the elements were in place, it was really the modernisation of the procurement process that was missing and that's what this arrangement has delivered," he said.

"There is a big opportunity -- a lot of the impediments for cloud adoption to have now been removed in terms of the procurement process."

Following the implementation of this arrangement, Moore expects to see some of the smaller agencies start using AWS.

"If you think about the very largest agencies that have their own procurement teams and their own lawyers and contracts staff, they can do their own procurement, but for the smaller agencies in particular, it's very difficult for them do something outside the normal," he said. "In this case, outside the normal is a good thing because it really exposes the value of cloud computing through procurement."

There have been pro-cloud policies within the Australian government for a while -- in February 2018, the Australian government Secure Cloud Strategy was published. It lighted a fire under the agencies yet to embark on a transformation to the cloud by offering a guide detailing the foundations for "sustainable change".

There has also been many government agencies using cloud for a while. The Australian Taxation Office for example uses AWS to host its MyTax application.

Read more: Head in three clouds: ANAO finds ATO contracts missing service commitments

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has also turned to the cloud for its 2021 Census, appointing AWS in May as IT partner.

The arrangement between AWS and the ABS followed the government entity turning to the cloud giant in late 2017 for help with delivering the same-sex marriage survey.

"They were given a very short period of time to stand that up and a very small budget, so they were able to put that together with AWS because it would not have been possible to do it in a way that ABS had traditionally stood up major systems, like the last Census for example," Moore added.

Read more: IBM lambasted by ABS for failing to handle Census DDoS

"They had an experience which said they can deliver a capability that is faster to deploy and lower cost than the way you would have done it in a legacy way, and that gave them the proof point they needed to then be highly confident that leveraging AWS for the next Census was the right decision for the taxpayer and for the Australian government."

While a simplified procurement model suits the government, due to the economies of scale, Moore said it makes more sense for AWS as well.

"If we can simplify the way that government agencies go through their procurement process then it gives them faster access to the depth and breadth of services that we have available," he said.

"I think that this new arrangement particularly suits cloud computing and it suits the way that we deliver our capabilities to government."

Historically, these types of arrangements were for a limited set of capabilities, often with fixed pricing.

"So this is somewhat unique in its ability to really bring out the value of cloud for government agencies, rather than having to rely on a traditional procurement approach where you have to try and influence the way that procurement is done," he added.

The federal government has signed similar whole-of-government deals with IBM, SAP, and Microsoft, but none have focused on new ways of running IT within government.

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