The New Zealand Government is taking a welcome lead globally in using infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
A tender worth about NZ$2 billion was issued just before Christmas, with proposals due to be submitted by 21 February and operations due to begin by July.
Under this plan, rather than owning servers and managing the network itself, the government would pay only for the services it uses and needs.
Contracts are likely to last 10 years, but they could last as long as 30.
Minister for Communications and Information Technology Steven Joyce said the move would stop duplication and save taxpayer money.
Industry figures describe the move as "quite leading edge", saying that "only a couple" of other governments are doing IaaS at the moment and the project presents "one of the biggest" ICT opportunities for 2011.
We also hear Boomtown Rats singer Sir Bob Geldof describe the cloud and IaaS as "f**king brilliant".
It does seem a bit of a bandwagon, with the British having their own G-Cloud project, the American Government having its cloud-based IaaS offering and the Australian Government also releasing its own draft cloud strategy this month. But it is good to see New Zealand on-board.
Both our ICT Minister Steven Joyce and the British are eyeing cash savings, along with Geldof, who says the cloud and IaaS won't tie countries down to legacy infrastructure and will make computing simpler.
Wisely, the New Zealand Government also notes security concerns, something typically raised in such projects, as well as issues that may arise from placing data offshore, by ensuring its cloud stays in New Zealand.
But there may well be other things to consider too. A few weeks back I spoke to a software supplier. Some of his Kiwi clients had recently migrated to a cloud based in Australia, but they discovered broadband speeds were not up to scratch and gave a slow connection. When they had problems, they also had trouble getting decent customer service from the cloud operator. Thus, they "returned to Earth", with the server safely back in their own buildings and being able to call on local support when needed.
Of course, since some governments will have their own super-fast broadband networks for departments, it might not be such an issue for the public sector. And meanwhile, for the rest of us, cloud will be one extra driver for the multibillion-dollar NBN and Ultra-Fast Broadband initiatives!