In a discussion with several people from an agency in a US jurisdiction, I was asked whether cloud computing can help IT consolidation. Digging a bit, I found out that this jurisdiction is consolidating data centers across different departments and – as far as I can tell – the process is still on-going. The jurisdiction is pretty decentralized, with decisions about IT investments traditionally taken by different departments and agencies. While the jurisdictional CIO has been given more power than in the past, CIOs in different agencies can still decide pretty much by themselves.
First of all I challenged the idea that the consolidated data center should be seen as a cloud infrastructure. While the model that is currently being contemplated prices different infrastructure services and meters their use, it was not clear whether other attributes of a cloud infrastructure, such as scalability and elasticity, as well its accessibility through the Internet, would be essential.
What I told the client is that most likely cloud computing could be a competitor to a jurisdiction-wide consolidation initiative. As one of clients said, the consolidated data center will not fit all business requirements, and the agency foresees anyhow to maintain some autonomous computing capacity for mission-specific workloads. Therefore the option of migrating those from the current agency servers to a cloud infrastructure provided by a third party could be in certain cases more palatable than relying on the consolidate data center, without prejudice to whether and when vendor solutions will be fit for purpose.
Where there is no overwhelming mandate for complete consolidation, emerging and maturing cloud computing offerings will become one of the several sourcing options that agencies can choose from in order to meet their requirements. Whoever is developing “government cloud infrastructures” as an evolution of their consolidation initiatives would better think twice about whether using the term “cloud” will be enough for them to get other agencies to buy-in.