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The importance of deepening and widening the use of cloud in the public sector

Sue Daley, Associate Director, Technology & Innovation, techUK

Sue leads techUK’s technology and innovation work which includes work programmes on cloud, data protection, data analytics, AI and Internet of Things as well as emerging and transformative technologies and innovation policy. She has been recognised as one of the most influential women in UK tech by Computer Weekly and as a key influencer in driving forward the Big Data agenda in the UK Big Data 100. Sue has also been shortlisted for the Milton Keynes Women Leaders Awards and was a judge for the Loebner Prize in AI. In addition to being a regular industry speaker on issues including AI ethics, data protection and cyber security, Sue was recently a judge for the UK Tech 50 and is a regular judge of the annual UK Cloud Awards.

Back in 2016, techUK published its Cloud 2020 Vision report.1 We called for government departments and civil servants to utilise the full benefits of cloud computing, and for departments and industry to work together to make this happen. In particular, we called for greater engagement in the commissioning process and the promotion of case studies where the use of cloud has delivered business transformation.

Over the last four years, and long before the COVID-19 pandemic, engagement between public sector and the cloud industry has increased and we are seeing real-life examples of where cloud adoption is making a real difference. Given the many benefits cloud offers to public sector organisations as they continue the process of digital transformation (increased agility, reduction in IT complexity, lower capital expenditure costs), more action is still needed to encourage and enable departments to move more of their applications and operations to the cloud.

The good news is that the UK has a vibrant, open, competitive and ever-changing cloud market that is willing and able to help. One of the advantages of cloud is that it opens up opportunities for public sector organisations to engage with more SMEs as well as larger digital services providers, with the ability for all partners to access the same digital platforms. In addition, advancements in cloud computing since 2016 and the development of advanced technologies such as containerisation offer additional solutions to assist government bodies. So how do we move the UK Government into the next phase of cloud adoption and utilisation? How do we get this right and what is key to support public sector leaders’ cloud strategy? Here we set forward three key areas.

Workload selection and governance

Public sector organisations should review their existing business applications to determine their suitability for a move to the cloud. Planning must include issues such as data security, privacy and governance processes, staff training needs, and procedures to ensure requirements are appropriate in the cloud; it should also consider the implications of moving applications that may be linked in the cloud. For example, increased costs can occur where applications are moved to the cloud that are constantly connected and can be ‘chatty’ with other cloud applications.

Managing cloud systems

As the range of cloud models and dedicated cloud services continues to grow and new technologies emerge, it is important that organisations establish ways to visualise, access and manage the different systems and applications available, for example by having real-time dashboards to monitor all cloud and on-premises services being used. In the case of hybrid cloud, issues to be addressed include identity management, access control and having appropriate information polices and cyber security processes in place. Getting the right balance between optimising security and business functionality will be key.

Making the right decisions about lifting and shifting

While moving to the cloud will bring about cost savings, getting the right architecture and design for cloud applications and making the right decisions about what applications to lift and shift to the cloud is essential. Looking into the future, organisations may want to move their cloud applications and data from one cloud provider to another. Thankfully, cloud customers in the UK have access to a spectrum of cloud services from which to choose based on their individual needs; this diverse cloud market not only enhances customer choice but also increases competition. In recent years we’ve seen an increase in the number of start-ups and scale-ups providing products and services to government, with these new services often supported and enabled by the wider cloud ecosystem. As a result, data portability and system interoperability issues have become a key part of the conversation between cloud users and service providers. Industry is here to help educate and inform customers to consider how using tools such as open source-based cloud solutions and common Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) components in the build and design of cloud services could enable them to move their data more easily in the future.

It is clear that cloud computing has an important role to play in the next stage of the UK Government’s digital transformation, as underlined by the recent publication of a range of guidance encouraging government organisations to adopt a more cross-functional approach to their cloud strategies.2 The cloud industry stands ready to help public sector leaders to overcome existing challenges in order to increase not only their adoption but utilisation of cloud computing in the future.

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Our experts

Clive Grethe

Global Head of Hybrid Cloud – Telecoms, Media and Technology, Atos

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Nikki Kelly

SVP Public Sector & Defence, Northern Europe

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