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Australian Strategy Moves Government Clouds Closer to Earth

By Andrea Di Maio | April 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

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After being slightly critical of the recently published draft ICT strategy – which remains a good document if taken in combination with others – I have just read the Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper, published today by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) in its final version after a draft and a round of comments from industry and the public at large (as explained on the Australian CIO’s blog).

This is a good document, not much different from the draft made available for public consultation. As Anne Steward put it in her blog, the bottom line is that

…Australian Government agencies may choose cloud based services if they demonstrate value for money and adequate security. The strategy will enable Australian Government agencies to gain the potential benefits of cloud computing and ensure that sensitive information is not put at risk

Therefore no compulsion, nor moral suasion, but a prudent approach aiming at having everybody onboard. The Cloud Information Community (CLIC), including representatives from all tiers of government, with international liaisons, is tasked with advising about principles, governance, compliance, service provider certification.

The strategy is organized in three streams.

The first one is about enabling – such as forming the CLIC and starting the work on common frameworks.

The second stream is on public cloud, aiming at pushing public-facing web sites that are under AGIMO’s responsibility into the cloud, identifying pilots for various agencies and developing framework contracts for public cloud services.

The third stream is about private and community cloud, including the integration with data centre consolidation, and the establishment of a government storefront to share information about services and vendors.

It seems that the Australians have been watching their US colleagues very closely and rather than pushing very hard for adoption, common contracts (see IaaS RFQ by GSA) and certification programs (see FedRAMP), have taken a more cautious approach, aiming at offering help from the center rather than forcing behaviors, and developing those frameworks and resources in a more collegial style. Interestingly enough, besides the Cloud First policy issued by the Office of Management and Budget, also the US have moved toward a more prudent attitude, requiring agencies to consider, but not necessarily adopt cloud-based solutions.

The Australian caution is also well justified by the presumably slower development of “community clouds” in their jurisdiction, given how long it has been taking to companies like Google, Microsoft and IBM to establish theirs for the US feds, and the fact that adoption in the US is not yet fast enough to make those vendors think seriously about their next location for a government cloud.

The UK should publish its new G-Cloud strategy shortly, and we will see if it confirms the trend from compulsion and centralization, to cost-benefit analysis and common decision frameworks.

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