Australian government forces itself into the cloud

A revision of the Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy has mandated that government agencies must use cloud services where it is appropriate to do so.

The Australian Department of Finance has today released an update to its cloud computing policy that will see government agencies adopt cloud computing services the next time their systems are due for a refresh.

The third version of the Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy (PDF) lays out a plan that will see the creation of cloud services panel by year's end, as well as a trial of automated relocation of critical data to a government cloud by December.

"Under the government's cloud policy, agencies now must adopt cloud where it is fit for purpose, provides adequate protection of data, and delivers value for money," the policy states. "A significant opportunity exists for agencies to increase their use of cloud services."

Despite the federal government spending around AU$6 billion each year on IT, since July 2010, the procurement of cloud services in the federal government's tender system has totalled a mere AU$4.7 million.

The new rules mandating the use of cloud services will apply to non-corporate commonwealth entities upon the next IT replacement or upgrade, and will see those entities needing to adopt public cloud services for public-facing websites as well as for testing and development, consider cloud for operational systems, and look at whether cloud services from other departments and agencies can be used.

Last month, the government rolled back the dual ministerial approval process that had been required for agencies to move their cloud IT infrastructure offshore.

Under the old regime, government departments needed the approval of their portfolio minister and the attorney-general to move their cloud-based IT services offshore, but now, departments need only seek the authorisation of their own agency head.

In June, the Australian Government Chief Technology Officer John Sheridan told ZDNet that government agencies were in no rush to move to the cloud, with many waiting for existing contracts to end.

"One of the challenges of understanding of where you might use a cloud procurement is to reflect on the fact that we're often in contract for things now, and you're not going to move into the cloud in the middle of a contract; you're going to wait until a contract reaches its end and then in accordance with the direction from government, evaluate cloud opportunities that meet that particular requirement, and use them if it is value for money to do so," he said.