South Australian government agencies are in continuing talks with private and public Cloud providers, with the Office of the Chief Information Officer looking specifically at whole-of-government Web-based collaboration tools.
Several departments are also looking closely at customer relationship management (CRM) solutions as a service, with Salesforce.com and competing providers making a convincing case in favour of a Cloud offering.
South Australian CIO, Andrew Mills, told Computerworld Australia that talks with providers had ramped up in the past year.
“I’ve had a revolving door of Cloud providers, as probably every other CIO has,” he said.
Following a successful implementation of Microsoft’s cloud-based Live@Edu platform for South Australian TAFE colleges in November 2009, Mills said the state’s Department of Education and Children's Services was looking for a similar solution for students and staff at other institutions.
Though Mills said he was keeping an eye on the situation, he said he did not have a complete view of what Cloud services were currently being considered by all state government agencies.
Salesforce.com in particular has been lobbying state and federal government officials for the use of public Cloud solutions such as its own CRM offering, based on an argument that storing data in jurisdictions will not contravene domestic laws.
While government bodies officially remain uncertain about the idea of storing any data in off-shore centres, Computerworld Australia understands that some Federal Government agencies have begun exploring the possibility using public Cloud providers for less sensitive materials.
Mills said he wasn’t adverse to the idea, but a current internal trial of Cloud providers and continuing negotiations with the likes of Salesforce.com will form the basis of a re-evaluation of the government’s risk guidance frameworks for agency’s dissemination of information security.
“State jurisdictions are so broad that the risk factors for the organisation are quite different,” he said. “You can’t impose a single solution for everyone. You have to provide the tools and let them work out the needs for their business.
“You certainly wouldn’t be using public Cloud CRM for highly sensitive personal information.”
However, he said increasing moves toward local Clouds from telcos as well as international providers would help to alleviate the regulatory concerns held by some.
Cloud and outsourcing arrangements pose increasingly attractive propositions for a cash-strapped South Australian Government, which has imposed increasingly tight restrictions on spending for the current financial year. Mills’ office is currently tasked with finding savings of $4.217 million according to the 2010/2011 budget, while the 4000 job cuts mandated by the government across the board are likely to affect ICT staff in some agencies.
The government is already heavily outsourced to HP’s Enterprise Services (formerly EDS) for its mainframe requirements and currently runs both a whole-of-government messaging service and payroll software across two thirds of public servants in a private Cloud environment.
Mills said there were likely greater cost benefits to be achieved through further migration to the Cloud, but that any implementations would be driven by business needs rather than through technology.
“We’ll need to reform and look very seriously at the balance of what we buy and how we buy it and what we do with ourselves,” he said.
“We’ll probably need to look at additions to strategy - whether that’s new strategy or a revamp. Certainly the industry is very different to what it was in 2007.”
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