MacGov says Australian government is becoming stifled by cloud vendor lock-in

Macquarie Government's MD details how sending everything to the one vendor has left Commonwealth entities in a similar situation to the one they were in before.

The Australian government has had cloud technology on its radar for a number of years, pushing the digital transformation of the public sector through initiatives such as the Secure Cloud Strategy and certifying cloud providers for government use via the Certified Cloud Services List.

But despite this cloud-first approach, Macquarie Government managing director Aidan Tudehope would argue that it isn't enough to simply move to the cloud in a "forced march" as it may have left government -- as well as private sector -- with a cloud provider lock-in situation.

"The challenge at the moment for government is that they see the shiny lights of some cloud providers and often go in heavily with one particular provider," he told ZDNet.

"The problem then is they get locked in, and if you've got a long term project that needs to be rolled out in many phases ... the decision to go with one cloud provider upfront may have made sense, but by the time the rubber hits the road and it starts to deliver citizen services, that answer may have changed and they may no longer be the right one."

While cloud has been seen by many as a way of simplifying and removing complication, Tudehope believes the vendor lock-in situation isn't good for anybody in the long term. He said this was particularly apparent in the government's attempts to make sense of its data.

"I think what happened was that government departments who were early adopters of public cloud saw the 'bling bling' -- the shiny lights -- the promise of public cloud, went in early, but hadn't thought through what they were actually jumping -- they were jumping out of maybe a large outsourcing environment but hadn't picked up that they were moving into a just as proprietary environment," he explained.

"One of the items that reinforces this [as the government starts] to move into the big data environment where large datasets are being moved around, [is that the] lock-in has gone to a new level and you just can't move petabytes of data between clouds with ease."

Pointing to government entities that are some of the larger consumers of cloud in the Commonwealth -- such as the Department of Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office -- Tudehope said the bigger agencies have a bigger spectrum of skills, often resulting in more experienced decision-making. However, where government departments are heavily outsourced, they are often beholden to the outsourcer where their IT environment is concerned, which further compounds the problem.

"In many cases that outsourcer is very happy and comfortable with the old way of doing IT and so they have often been held at ransom and adopting cloud has been slow inside those agencies," Tudehope said.

"Quite a diverse range, but as a cohort they're generally considered as lagging that of the private sector -- hopefully that will change over the coming years."

Tudehope said that in 2015 the Australian government was on a "forced march" when it came to cloud computing adoption -- they were basically told it was government policy to adopt cloud and they needed to be able to tick that box that they were adopting cloud-first.

"We came back in 2018 and it had changed, it was no longer about policy being a driver, it was now about, 'How do I go from -- in many agencies -- a sprinkling of cloud deployment to being fully in?' and they were looking for blueprints and examples and easy, low-risk ways to do it," he explained.

"More agencies are all-in and I think over the next couple of years you will look back and see large workloads moving across to cloud which we haven't seen to-date.

"In 2019 it is generally recognised that [hybrid cloud] is where we're going to end and you won't get real hybrid cloud environments unless you have that portability and flexibility to move workloads between clouds."

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