Australian government proposes flexibility for cloud panel

The Department of Finance is inviting comments to be submitted by agencies and the industry after it released a cloud procurement discussion paper on establishing a cloud panel at the end of the year.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

After consultation with government agencies and industry, the Australian federal government's Department of Finance has released the cloud procurement discussion paper outlining a proposed structure to establish a cloud provider panel.

The paper (PDF) said the panel of cloud services will potentially encompass services under specific service models that have been defined by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) including software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, and infrastructure-as-a-service.

Under each of these models in the first instance, the Department of Finance said it plans to cater for current products in demand based on feedback received from agencies and industries.

The initial approach to market will include nine categories: CRM, ERP, IT service management, productivity solutions, application deployment, web hosting, compute, storage, and cloud specialists. Although it is expected as demand changes over time, more categories will be added.

The paper goes on to say that industry participants accepted on the panel will sign contracts for a term of two years, with four one-year extension options, and during the time they will have the opportunity to add new service offerings based on demands and approval from the Department of Finance.

The paper also puts forward four potential funding models, all sharing a common idea that tenders should be charged an application fee of AU$250 per service. According the paper, given the panel will be voluntary, it will not be able to run on a cost recovered basis, unlike many of the other panels run by the Department of Finance.

"This model should not financially disadvantage niche businesses that may only have one service to offer," the paper noted.

Leading the push to establish a cloud panel by December of this year is Australian government CTO John Sheridan, who recently told ZDNet that a cloud provider panel will provide the best selection of cloud companies and products on offer to the government.

He said that over 35 contracts worth AU$1.5 million of cloud services have already been signed since the Department of Finance's established a Data Centre as a Service Multi Use List (DCaaS MUL) in October 2012, aimed to provide agencies a way to procure cloud services under AU$80,000 for terms of less than 12 months.

"They've demonstrated to us the useful aspects of using cloud procurement as a form of meeting particular challenges or particular requirements for government IT," he said.

Although feedback provided by agencies through the discussion paper indicated that take-up of cloud services could have been higher if the DCaaS MUL did not have the limitations on contract duration and value.

This is part of the Australian government's efforts to form a whole-of-government arrangement for cloud services. As part of a baby steps approach towards using cloud technology within government, there are plans to move the Australia.gov.au and Finance.gov.au into the public cloud later this year.

Last week, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed that a revised cloud computing policy, updated from the policy the government took to the 2013 election would be released soon.

"We'll soon release a revised cloud computing policy to significantly increase the take up of cloud services by federal government agencies, consistent with our policy for e-government and the digital economy," he said at the time.

The minister indicated that the policy would look to stop some of the blocks placed on government agencies in using cloud services.

"As important as mission statements are, of most importance are the actions we're taking to remove barriers that currently restrict, and in many cases prevent, agencies from procuring cloud services," he said.

"We cannot shy away from the fact that we need to improve the way ICT is traditionally being delivered by government. Consider the fact that the federal government alone spends about AU$6 billion a year on ICT and yet has spent less than $5 million on cloud services since July 2010."

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