The future for Cloud First – industry reaction

SUMMARY:

Three leading cloud services providers to the UK public sector give their response to techUK’s new report calling for Cloud First to be more prominent on the government tech agenda.

As part of its new report – Cloud First: Policy Not Aspiration –   technology industry association techUK calls for greater communication between public sector buy-side and cloud services vendors on the sell-side to support greater adoption of cloud computing in the UK public sector.

It also queries whether the Cloud First message of several years ago still resonates as strongly and is being pushed as hard as it was by central government policy makers. Sue Daley, head of cloud, data, analytics and artificial intelligence at techUK, says:

The next wave of our digital revolution is being powered by the internet of things, big data analytics and artificial intelligence – cloud computing underpins all of these developments. Given the importance of this technology to the UK’s digital future, it is vital that users understand the security benefits of the Cloud and that advice delivered today addresses the users’ concerns. We want to take away all the confusion around cloud and highlight that cloud services can actually offer much greater levels of security and resilience as required by users.

diginomica asked a number of UK public sector cloud providers for their own views on the techUK report and its conclusions, beginning with Simon Hansford, CEO of UKCloud, who’s a big supporter of the Cloud First mantra:

Cloud First is a policy that has served us well and should not be dropped. It conveys a simple message – one that with the right support can gain traction and act as a catalyst for transformation – just as we have seen with exemplar projects from HMRC to DVLA. There’s a lot more to do though with thousands of workloads that are virtualised and would be cheaper and better run in the cloud.

Typically, you find poor leadership and oversight behind failures to implement cloud first. Without a champion or widespread support you can struggle to overcome resistance resulting from a lack of education to benefits of cloud. After all we still see people moving to Crown Hosting or issuing tenders to build data centres.

That said, Hansford is also supportive of the emergence of the Cloud Native message alongside Cloud First:

Cloud Native is equally important and becoming the new mantra for many, but it’s a much harder message to convey and requires a lot more education. Cloud Native means that the application is written for the cloud from the ground up – it’s not a just a virtualised app. Knowing what is involved – 12 Factor App, etc. – requires enough understanding to see beyond the headline or sound bite. If you’re not careful, you run the risk of ending up with a Cloud Native app that is locked in to a cloud vendor’s propriety technology stack and therefore falls foul of open government and government procurement policies.

Gavin Mee, Senior Vice President and Head of UK, Salesforce, picks up on the skills aspect of the techUK report:

The TechUK report highlights the issues government faces in rolling out cloud services and echoes the Government Digital Service Advisory Board finding that the internal skills of employees is a significant challenge to government’s desire to move away from legacy IT systems. Whatever the technology involved, culture and employee adoption are critical success factors for any tech project.

At Salesforce we recognise that a gap in digital skills is a key barrier to the adoption of cloud technology, in both the public and private sectors. This is why we believe that the education and upskilling of the entire workforce is of the upmost importance, not only for the success of each organisation, but more widely for the sake of innovation and the future of Britain.

Beyond giving employees the skills they need to succeed, it’s up to leadership to build a culture of innovation and ‘cloud confidence’ where employees at all levels and experience have the tools and culture to learn…We should be empowering all public sector workers, to feel confident using cloud and other technologies to better serve citizens. It’s about putting the tools and resources in their hands to boost digital innovation in the public sector.

Meanwhile Stuart Provan, Head of UK Public Sector, Oracle, points to the progress that the UK public sector has made in its cloud adoption to date, but adds:

To continue this strong momentum, public sector bodies must ensure that not only are they implementing cloud technologies, but also adapting their business models, processes and organisational culture alongside this change. In doing this, they will be able to fully realise the benefits of cloud – particularly when it comes to leveraging cost savings, the latest technical updates and security patches.

It’s also vital that the public sector is vocal about, and builds on, the successes it has already seen when using sloud. By highlighting the myriad of use cases for cloud, the benefits for other organisations within the sector will become clear and encourage more to adopt the technology take and advantage of it.

My take

It’s a small sample, but cloud services providers to the public sector are clearly supportive of the Public Cloud First message that was set down several years ago. It’s up to the buy-side to engage in conversations with the sell-side to ensure that the promise of cloud computing is fully realised in public services delivery.

 

 

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Disclosure - At time of writing, Oracle, Salesforce and UKCloud are partners of diginomica/government.