Department of Human Services is building a new private cloud

DHS is moving to an 'elastic' private cloud sitting across x86 and IBM Power Systems hardware as part of its departmental transformation.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is currently undertaking a handful of technology-driven projects, and has revealed building out an "elastic" private cloud as part of its overall digital transformation.

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Speaking at IBM Think in Sydney on Friday, DHS head of enterprise architecture Garrett McDonald said the private cloud sits across x86 and IBM Power Systems hardware.

"What we've been looking at in the immediate term is how do we establish a private cloud that we can stretch across hyperconverged infrastructure, bare metal x86 -- how do we stretch that across Power, and how do we stretch that onto the Z platform," McDonald said.

"Within our environment we have an elastic private cloud where we can use a single pane of glass to spin up environments and workloads on a platform where we might need horizontal scalability, vertical scalability, it could be that we'll use particular platforms for accelerated machine learning or do we need that higher performance and the ability to make concurrency and throughput go elsewhere."

The approach makes sense, given DHS has already made a "significant" investment in IBM's Power platform and also big blue's Z mainframe platform, McDonald said.

As a government department, DHS is subject to data sovereignty and other requirements from government on the accreditation of the facilities it operates, how the infrastructure is run, and even the systems in place.

"The approach we're taking, the tools we're using support a hybrid multi-cloud approach so that where we have cloud providers on the government accredited panel, where the workload type is well-suited to one of those providers, where the economics and the security of the workload we're looking at makes sense, we do have the option of stretching out from a private cloud within our datacentres out into the commercial providers as well," McDonald explained.

DHS is undergoing a digital transformation in the social welfare space, and McDonald said the "elastic" cloud is just one factor being considered as the department heads into that transformation.

"Our existing systems have been with us for the better part of 30 years; it was around the mid to late 1980s that the social welfare system really started to take off in an electronic form," he explained. "While it's served us well, we recognise that the needs of government and the needs of citizens are changing, it's also time for that generational uplift."

The Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) program is a billion-dollar project to overhaul Australia's 30-year-old payment system which processes over AU$100 billion in Centrelink payments each year.

Labelled the biggest digital transformation the government has embarked on to date by former Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge, WPIT is expected to take seven years to complete.

"So in approaching this transformation we're making sure we take in this in terms of, this isn't just about upgrading technology and it's certainly not about digitising existing business processes ... [it's about] making sure this is a true transformation in how do you push the envelope, how do you re-imagine the possible for transformating citizen interactions with government," McDonald continued.

"This is a program where the existing capabilities have been in place for 30 years, odds are it will be 30 years before we undertake another transformation of this size, you are talking about a 5-7 year window within a 60-year period where you're trying to undertake both a significant systems re-development and a transformation of how the organisation works."

DHS also put over 400 of its staff through scaled agile training, with "agile coaches" embedded within the department's teams.

Human Services has been on a procurement spending spree, just this month handing out over AU$50 million-worth of cash to third-party vendors.

IBM received two separate contracts valued at $6.6 million and AU$1.87 million for communications devices and accessories-related software until March 2019, and AU$10.2 million for desktop hardware.

Telecommunications service provider Ethan Group was awarded four contracts totalling AU$27.4 million, for "desktop hardware", while application monitoring firm Dynatrace was given AU$14.8 million for IT software until March 2021.

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