The adoption of cloud computing is all the rage this year with everyone from Microsoft downwards extolling the benefits of subcontracting network infrastructure to someone else, somewhere else in cyberspace. It seems that all your data should be stored anywhere but in your own office on your own servers and all in the name of costcutting.
As far as the public sector is concerned, the fact is that budgetary pressures have already persuaded many agencies to utilise their own version of the cloud by having their network services hosted by another agency within their department or local authority.
Take Staffordshire County Council for example. It has implemented a plan to save as much as £1 million a year by building an ICT network linking all borough and district councils as well as the South Staffs health authority. This ambitious network sharing scheme is designed to connect around 50,000 devices in 200 council properties and 400 schools. At the same time, 18 different offices will be condensed into a new single HQ building in the centre of Stafford.
As far as individual schools and other county agencies are concerned, this centralisation is almost tantamount to cloud computing as all infrastructure is consolidated in one remote location. It means that running costs can be cut at the same time as users enjoy access to improved, more expensive infrastructure However, real cloud computing means that all information processing is outsourced and, in the case of a public sector authority, this involves using a third party data centre.
Analysts, Ovum, have recently published a report estimating that the G Cloud alone is set to reduce annual expenditure by £4 billion by the end of the decade through consolidating 8,000 data centres into 12 G Cloud sites.
There is no doubt that future IT related cost cutting in the public sector is going to be very heavily reliant on further public sector network sharing projects like that pioneered by Staffordshire and on the G Cloud.
A major factor in the spread of sharing of IT services by individual public sector entities is likely to be the emergence of the Public Sector Network itself. According to a report by SOCITM ( the Society of IT Management ) the PSN is itself a virtual shared service and is “becoming a potential delivery mechanism for shared data centres, storage facilities, the public sector ‘cloud’, remote technical expertise, and customer and employee self service”.
The urgent and ongoing need for public sector cost savings is dictating the pace of ICT service sharing between public agencies and is over riding obstacles such as territorial integrity and worries about security. As major providers of shared public network services like Marlow based MLL Telecom will testify, concerns about data “ leaks” from one agency and another are based more on fear than on fact. The company which operates virtual private networks for several local authority bodies and security sensitive agencies like police forces insists that VPNs can be isolated from one another by the use of Label Switched Paths which ensure 100 privacy for each organisation using the shared network.
It would seem that public sector IT managers who have so far resisted moves towards shared networks using traditional well worn excuses have got their heads stuck firmly in the sand rather than in the clouds!
MLL Telecoms, a UK based telecommunication company, provides customers with backhaul, ethernet solutions and managed shared networks. Please visit http://www.mlltelecom.com