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Cloud: What about regulated environments? April 29, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services, Outsourcing, Software.
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The cloud changes everything. That’s the consensus view. Whether it’s remote infrastructure management, software as a service, or utility computing or all of these strategies combined in some way, the cloud is changing the IT services market.

But forget the hype you read in a lot of the business and tech press. Most of us are already using cloud-based services with photo-sharing, video-sharing, document-sharing services, or even tools like Google Apps and Gmail. Facebook and LinkedIn are both tools that exist in the cloud and most executives probably use them each and every day.

The question is really how do we move from acceptance of consumer tools to a place where these applications can be used in a bulletproof and robust corporate environment?

It’s a tall order. IT leaders have a different focus to personal end users, particularly when it comes to availability and security. These are particularly important factors when the IT service is purchased from a supplier and will translate into key performance indicators applied to a service level agreement. The small print of the publicly available services does include information about service levels, but it will usually just excuse the provider from any responsibility to give you a reliable service.

If Google Mail was never available when you wanted to use it then it would be abandoned and never used, but it’s reliable enough for most of us most of the time – even with some occasional well-documented failures. Google does offer a paid version of their mail product, with SLAs, so it works better for corporate users who want that guarantee.

But can real companies make this work? It’s more than two years now since Guardian News and Media Group in the UK switched 2,500 users over to Google Apps and with it being such an easy financial decision, more will follow – so it can be done and stepping away from email on individual PCs is no longer seen as such an unusual move.

The cloud is coming and it will change more traditional bread and butter IT services such as ERP and CRM for the supplier market. But how does all of this work in a regulated market such as the public sector, banking, or for a utility. What are your thoughts ahead of the Thomas Eggar Technology and Enterprise Forum on Thursday May 12?

The Government App Store April 15, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, Outsourcing, Software.
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Detractors have argued that the concept of a government cloud (g-cloud) is so complex and fraught with privacy issues that it will never get off the ground, but supporters argue that in a time of austerity, reuse of software and systems is essential.

The general cloud concept has been outlined on this blog before. One of the great attractions for cloud-based applications is central management, eliminating the need to manage local versions, upgrades, and maintenance. Virtual infrastructure, such as data centres also work well within the cloud-based model, allowing several departments or organisations to share storage and computing power.

For all these reasons, the British government has been interested in two key concepts in recent years:

  • A cloud of government applications and tools that can be shared by many departments
  • A government app-store, allowing standard tools to be used anywhere within government.

These are common concept for consumers. The cloud itself is merely centrally managed software, such as Microsoft’s Gmail, and the app-store is what every Android or iPhone user is now used to – plug and play systems. It is not so long ago that your telephone could only do what it did when you bought it. It was not possible to upgrade or load new software, and when it was possible, it was with great difficulty. Now consumers are used to modifying, customising, and using their equipment in new ways.

The advantages for government are obvious. Think of how many software systems are used within the police, the NHS, the devolved local governments and councils… the list is mind-boggling and yet in all these places there will be a set of common tools that can theoretically be shared with other government organisations. The advantages of getting the G-cloud working are obvious. Will the detractors derail it as too ambitious?

As with most things in politics, only time will tell.