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Government still cautious about cloud: Glenn Archer

Stephanie McDonald | June 28, 2013
Adoption by federal government agencies has been slower than anticipated

Australian government CIO Glenn Archer
Australian government CIO Glenn Archer

Glenn Archer, the Australian government CIO, remains cautious about agencies moving to the cloud and said there are still challenges that need to be overcome.

In particular, he said legacy systems are still posing challenges for the federal government departments adopting cloud computing services.

"Integrating those into [the] cloud is often quite challenging ... We need to think about how we resolve those usual security issues and that's tended to occupy a lot of the discussion," Archer told CIO.

"In reality we feel that there's certainly areas where they are either less relevant or not relevant at all and that's why we've targeted public facing websites and [test] environments."

The focus on public facing websites has been highlighted in the recently released Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy v2.0, which was released in tandem with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy's national cloud computing strategy.

The updated cloud policy by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) includes the feasibility of a government community cloud in early 2014 and migrating public facing websites to cloud hosting at natural ICT refresh points this year.

But Archer said agencies that have high security needs also have additional challenges for moving to the cloud. In particular, challenges with adopting public cloud.

"[For] their core systems cloud doesn't seem to lend itself [to the public cloud]. That's not to say that agencies that have a particularly high security requirement or challenging privacy issues wouldn't be able to look to use cloud as a private cloud arrangement," he said.

"We anticipate that in due course cloud vendors will probably offer better encryption for their publicly hosted cloud environments and we believe there may come a day when that's adequate to support or provide support for customer information.

"We don't think we're there yet ... we believe it's going to be some time before that's going to be easily achieved."

The government said in its updated cloud policy that citizen information covered by privacy and data protection may not use public clouds for another three to five years. In the meantime, private cloud, hybrid cloud and community cloud are acceptable.

Archer said procurement issues have also been challenging for government agencies.

"I think it'll take us a little while for agencies to get comfortable both with the procurement and contractual management issues [associated] with suppliers," Archer said.

"I guess if I was to make a prediction I think that once they do that the adoption rate will probably rise quite rapidly."

Government cloud adoption so far
The Australian government released its first policy for cloud in April 2011, with theCloud computing strategic papersetting out details on what cloud is, issues and benefits for government and guidance information for agencies choosing to adopt cloud-based services.


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