NSW government explains its datacentre-as-a-service approach

In the second and final part of ZDNet's look at the NSW government's datacentre consolidation program, we examine the concept of a datacentre-based services marketplace and the government's current thinking on how it will approach the cloud.
Written by Tim Lohman, Contributor

Services marketplace

Alongside the core work around the business case and strategy for the datacentre migrations and consolidation, Dr Pedro Harris, executive director of IT strategic delivery at the Department of Finance & Services, said the New South Wales government has also been working to create a services marketplace within the two new facilities.

The thinking behind the marketplace is around how to effectively create "datacentre as a service" for NSW government agencies. In effect, this is done through allowing private service providers to take up space in the facility to then offer government agencies services directly using an "as-a-service" model.

The services are listed under a service catalogue, and are accessed via a portal operated by Metronode.

Services available at the launch of the Silverwater site included installation of racks and custom engineering; inter-site connectivity; security upgrades; electrical power and earth connections; and structured cabling and cable management services.

"We were approached extensively by industry about whether we would consider allowing them to provide on-premises facilities onsite," Harris said of one of the drivers for the marketplace.

"The industry began to see that with agencies moving in, there were a lot of opportunities for them. They wanted to talk to us about assisting with the migration, the lift and shift ... so it became clear to us that with the aggregation of demand — which is what we were bringing — that we needed to think about how we could get suppliers on-site and provide services.

"In doing that, we would be able to have our demands met directly by the industry. That's where the concept of the marketplace was born."

Following a reworking of the new datacentres' design to allow for space for the private sector in the two facilities, the NSW government went to market early this year with an expression of interest. Around 68 providers responded. Currently, three are actively providing services — cloud broker AC3, data analytics provider Teradata, and networking services provider NextGen.

The remaining 65 companies are capable of offering services at any time, Dr Harris said, but many are waiting to sign their first customer within the facility before switching on their services.

The services on offer range from the expected services to support major infrastructure migration, network design, and security through to smaller niche offerings, such as SharePoint in a box, and newer cloud-style offerings, such as storage and compute on demand.

The idea, Dr Harris said, is that the services offering will mature as agencies themselves mature, or as their focus shifts from migration to business efficiencies. The intent is to increase the use of public cloud offerings and new service delivery initiatives to harness concepts such as big data — as the current presence of AC3 and Teradata in the marketplace already implies.

Cloud thinking

As Dr Harris explained, the government's thinking, not only on its datacentres but also for application service provision, is very much headed toward the cloud.

For example, in February this year, the NSW government began involving the IT industry in its plans to move services to the cloud, putting out two calls to market on transitioning its desktop and messaging services away from its traditional infrastructure.

Then Minister for Finance and Services Greg Pearce said that the state government would conduct a trial of five cloud projects covering email as a service; enterprise resource planning as a service; shared service multi-tenanted email as a service; infrastructure as a service; desktop as a service; and email and collaboration as a service.

In a further sign of its commitment to cloud, the government released in September its first Cloud Services Policy to help direct its agencies as they move to service-based IT solutions. A key feature of the policy is the requirement that NSW agencies now have to evaluate cloud‐based services when undertaking IT procurements.

Dr Harris said that the cloud policy, in particular, is recognition of where the government's IT leaders want to send their workloads. Where it makes sense, agencies will augment their on-premises resources with those from the public cloud in combined hybrid public-private cloud environments, or, for more sensitive workloads, in exclusively private clouds.

"The cloud policy does allow the uptake of cloud, and encourages my peers to think about where it makes sense for that resource to be provided from," he said. "If they have an integration or latency issue, then they may want that workload closer to where the other services are.

"They may not need that — if it is messaging as a service or desktop as a service that can be vended from anywhere and will probably be more from public clouds."

Dr Harris said that he does not expect major line-of-business applications, such as agencies' ERP systems, to become rapidly available via cloud. However, given the design of the two new datacentre facilities — Dr Harris claims they operate at close to a Tier Four level of reliability and availability — and the on-site presence of the service provider marketplace, these applications may not be too far off.

"Issues such as latency and data sovereignty come into play with those large line-of-business systems, but we wanted to open up the cloud in those environments; hence, the on-premises government private cloud idea was born," he said. "That allows workloads to get closer to where the need is and where agency can subscribe to.

"I think we are working from both ends of the scale. If you only work from one end — the easy public cloud services — then you will not deal with the heavy base load of business systems. That is the focus of the datacentres — the really big stuff which drives government, and which are not cloud ready yet — but we will get them there."

Read part one of this series: NSW government opens up on datacentre strategy.

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