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It seems like everyone is talking about ‘the cloud’ these days – and there’s no question that executives and software and service providers are investing heavily in it. Is this yet another case where the Public Sector is different from Private? Or are the market drivers pushing Private Sector cloud strategy and adoption equally compelling to Public entities?

Why Cloud is Emerging NOW

Cloud computing is a major information technology (IT) trend driven by the explosion of data, adoption of social media and consumerization of IT.  This explosion creates demand for lower cost solutions for storage and computing capacity. In the cloud, storage and compute capacity are two of the offerings of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers where customers pay for what they use and avoid having to acquire and provision the hardware.  Platform as a Service (PaaS) allow organizations to build their own applications on a cloud provider’s platform, also on a pay per use basis. And organizations are taking advantage of Software as a Service (SaaS) point solutions with consumption based pricing and external management.  The SaaS solutions include maintenance and upgrades, so customers are always on the latest release of the software. This trend is well established in private sector.

Global Public Sector Trends

So what are we seeing in public sector?  According to the KPMG report “Exploring the Cloud: A Global Study of Governments’ Adoption of Cloud”, February 2012, public sector adoption of cloud computing lags private sector.  Public sector organizations are very interested in cloud-based solutions to better manage limited resources and change interactions with citizens and suppliers. The US, UK, and Australian governments have cloud strategies.

The US announced the “Cloud First” strategy to accelerate the pace of achieving value from cloud computing in the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy published in February 2011. US Federal Agencies must evaluate cloud options first before making any new IT investments. To provide a government-wide, standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services, the US Government established the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP).  Government organizations can re-use the FedRAMP authorizations to accelerate cloud usage.  Only three cloud service providers were authorized under FedRAMP as of May 31st, 2013, suggesting that assessing security for leading edge technology solutions takes time. 

US State and Local organizations also have embraced cloud computing. The State of Michigan with MiCloud, published the first published state government cloud computing strategy in the US, focused on leveraging emerging cloud computing technologies and business models to deliver the necessary increase in IT agility.

The UK Government is also at the forefront of cloud computing adoption with the G-Cloud Programme, which aims to save of £340m by 2015. The G-Cloud Programme delivered the CloudStore catalogue of Cloud applications and services which can be accessed by Public Sector bodies without the need for up front time and cost intensive pre-procurement cycles. 

Most recently, Australia announced its National Cloud Computing Strategy which has three core goals:

  • Maximizing the value of cloud computing in government;
  • Promoting cloud computing to small businesses, not-for-profits and consumers; and
  • Supporting a vibrant cloud services sector.

Like the US and UK, Australian public sector organizations seek the value and agility offered by cloud computing.  The Australian National Cloud Computing Strategy calls out the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Trade and Industry adoption of Google Docs for  e-mail and collaboration and SAP Business By Design software as a service solution for core finance and human resources applications.  The report also highlights another trend we see in public sector: community clouds.  The Australian Department of Human Services has a community cloud in development that will provide significant scalability and flexibility at a low cost for client departments. 

Running the Gamut

So many factors influence where Public sector entities view the cloud in their roadmaps – from the size of the organization to geographic consideration, legal considerations…etc.  In many cases, due to the multiplicity of considerations, Public sector organizations may lag their commercial counterparts. Concerns about IT security, privacy, and data sovereignty have slowed adoption.  Many countries require a local data center for a cloud-based solution.  In public sector we see some on premise customers looking at moving their landscape to an Infrastructure as a Service provider. We also see on premise customers extending into the cloud with cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) solutions, especially for learning and talent management. 

What are you seeing?

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_10830545_artwork-for-business-idea-from-business-person.html‘>samuiarzt / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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