Search form


Become a Member Today Sign Up

Mar 2014 | THE MARCH ISSUE

REMOVING BARRIERS TO GOVERNMENT CLOUD ADOPTION
RALPH CHAPMAN, IBM CANADA

Government IT systems can be costly and complex, especially when taking into account the legacy systems that continue to support many of the routine, day-to-day operations. Cloud offers a fix that can overcome some of our biggest infrastructure challenges. Cloud can reduce costs, energy usage and space requirements of government data centers. Cloud-based solutions can improve security and reduce risk exposure, even with data that is distributed across multiple systems and locations. And cloud can improve access to services and information that is integral to citizens. So why are some still reluctant to make the jump into cloud? Acknowledging the barriers and addressing the issues are the first steps to realizing the proven benefits cloud offers.

"The barriers of security, cost, energy, space and legacy systems can be overcome with cloud. We are seeing that government departments can achieve these benefits and more from a high-value cloud infrastructure, with the ultimate result that citizens are better served."
 
Many organizations are beginning to shed the limitations of inefficient IT infrastructures and reap the benefits of the cloud. They understand that cloud is not a one-time commoditized transaction, locked into one vendor.  As they invest in cloud, they will be able to scale for managing complex workloads, and build in the interoperability and open capabilities required to integrate legacy investments.
 
We have seen many government departments make this transformation and have determined there are some guiding principles that can direct the process
 

I. GUIDING PRINCIPLES

 
The move into cloud computing is not difficult, but it requires thoughtful planning.  Proper preparation for any IT transformation will help anticipate obstacles, keep everyone focused on the same goals, and alleviate concerns from all constituents.
 
The following guiding principles have been gleaned from years of experience with government entities of all sizes as they have moved their technology infrastructures to high-value cloud computing, and gained powerful insights from the mountains of data that now surround citizens daily. We call it Big Data.
 
Specialized -- Do not settle for one-size-fits-all computing.
Today’s commodity-like cloud services offer few options. High-value services make it possible for clients to tailor solutions for their particular needs. Because of the complexity of operations and management structure, governments cannot settle for commoditized, one-size-fits-all computing. The right cloud services will enable agencies to become more nimble, responsive and efficient, to meet the expanding needs of their constituents. This type of infrastructure can be referred to as a ‘high-value’ cloud.
 
The high-value cloud, in contrast to today’s commodity-type cloud services, does not require organizations to compromise on control, performance, automation or open standards. A high-value cloud has the potential to provide a computing infrastructure that is flexible enough to permit lightning-quick responses to changes in the business or governing environment. It is also customizable to precisely fit the needs of each organization, while providing secure and reliable service.
 
Strategic -- Do not choose cloud services based solely on an immediate need, but consider your long-term plans.
 
Cloud computing is a strategic, long-term resource that can deliver a flexible, reliable and secure IT infrastructure to the public sector. It is the perfect solution for agencies that want to avoid large capital expenditures, and the complex structure required to manage their own IT systems. It allows them to take advantage of the efficiencies of the shared computing resources, and in this day of instant apps, organizations can use their cloud resources to get new applications up and running quickly.
 
Today, the world is in the early days of broad-based cloud adoption. Most large organizations and many small ones use cloud services for a handful of purposes like for developing and testing new software applications or managing customer relationships and marketing campaigns. Organizations that commit to shifting their core activities to a high-value cloud model will be the leaders of their industries tomorrow.
 
Standards – Do not get locked into one cloud service provider, but find a high-value cloud that is based on open technology standards.
 
Open technology standards are essential to helping governments embrace cloud computing. The OpenStack Foundation and other open standards organizations are addressing concerns about integration and security – two of the inhibitors to widespread cloud adoption. Using an open and interoperable computing fabric will allow organizations to take full advantage of the capabilities of technology advances in mobility, social networking, Big Data analytics and cognitive computing. For companies and government agencies that embrace open standards, this infrastructure delivery model can be the key to achieving optimum performance and flexibility in our high-pressure, ever-changing world.
 
Secure – Do not pick cloud services where security is added as an afterthought. An open and secure cloud platform can be leveraged to address the need to exchange information between agencies and with constituents, where encryption is crucial. Until recently, encrypted data could not be analyzed without decrypting it first -- potentially compromising the privacy and integrity of the data. This has been an obstacle for greater adoption of cloud computing.
 
Several ground-breaking research initiatives are making cloud computing more secure by ensuring data always remains encrypted while it's being transported, searched and processed in the cloud. Today there are a portfolio of cloud security solutions that span all security domains--people, data, applications and infrastructure, with an emphasis on visibility, control, isolation and automation. These are issues that are essential to all cloud solutions, but especially in the public sector.
 
The high-value cloud represents a monumental shift in IT, where organizations are realizing tremendous benefits. Governments will be best served by understanding the capabilities that will be available in the future, positioning themselves to take full advantage of them. This cloud service must be specialized, strategic, secure, and based on an open-standards platform. We are looking at cloud services that will take on an ever-wider array of tasks and of deliver more profound benefits for government, society and business.
 
The barriers of security, cost, energy, space and legacy systems can be overcome with cloud. We are seeing that government departments can achieve these benefits and more from a high-value cloud infrastructure, with the ultimate result that citizens are better served.
 

II. CASE STUDIES IN CLOUD ADOPTION

 
Toronto, Ontario
Waterfront Toronto, one of the largest waterfront revitalization projects in the world, is using the IBM Intelligent Operations Centre delivered as a service on the IBM SmartCloud to integrate multiple data sources and create real-time visualizations that will deliver insights and create opportunities for social collaboration.
 
Working with IBM Business Partner Element Blue, Waterfront Toronto is launching thenewblueedge.ca, a powerful community portal and platform, which includes IBM Connections social collaboration tools that residents can use to easily connect with neighbors, businesses and service providers in the surrounding area. The portal provides easy ways to view city-wide data on mobile or desktop devices, allowing residents to keep a finger on the pulse of events, news and activity across the growing community. 
 
“Waterfront Toronto is creating an intelligent community that uses technology to enhance quality of life and economic opportunity,” said John Campbell, CEO Waterfront Toronto. “Together with partners like IBM and Element Blue, we are delivering future-ready infrastructure that will allow people and businesses to thrive and deliver a competitive advantage for the City of Toronto on the global stage.” 
 
Cambridge, Ontario
With the ability to visualize infrastructure and analyze maintenance costs - including how long major assets such as roads or pipes will last - cities can save time and money in the planning process and millions in construction and maintenance costs. Even modest-sized cities can own more than $1 billion in assets and spend millions each year maintaining them.   
 
Cambridge, Ontario has more than 250,000 infrastructure assets with a total value of $1.6 billion, including more than 300 miles of roads and more than 1,200 miles of underground water mains, sewage and storm pipes. The city is using IBM’s new infrastructure planning software to examine millions of disparate pieces of information to perform what-if analyses to help make better decisions. Algorithms process the data and predict which assets will fail and when, helping city staff look across all departments and decide, for example, whether a sewer pipe should be re-lined or replaced entirely, or if a roadway should be resurfaced at the same time. It also incorporates a financial planning tool to help more effectively use funding for each project. Through better project coordination, less time spent on capital forecasting, and improved asset management, the City of Cambridge is expected to save at least $100,000 per year.
 
 “When developing new infrastructure, it should be from the ground up – underground sewer pipes to surface streets and storm drains. We should only have to dig up a street once to fix all of its underlying systems,” said Mike Hausser, director of asset management and support services, City of Cambridge. “Using IBM’s Intelligent Operations software, Cambridge is able to coordinate efforts in servicing, maintaining and updating our infrastructure, which can lower costs for our city departments and improve the quality of services to citizens.” 
 
US Federal Agencies
The U.S. Department of Interior is embarking on a multi-year process of shifting its traditional information technology systems to a cloud computing-based delivery model. The agency’s 16 bureaus and offices, which manage assets ranging from national parks and monuments to wildlife refuges, dams and reservoirs, spend in excess of $1 billion a year on IT—but expect to save $100 million per year from 2016 to 2021 via the shift to the cloud. The financial impact of the move will be substantial, but, in addition, the Interior department is putting in place a long-term strategy aimed at using the cloud to help transform the way it operates—making it more nimble, innovative and responsive to the needs of its constituents. It plans on using the savings it reaps from the shift to fund investments in new capabilities.
 
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will securely manage more than five million orders a year on IBM’s Smart Cloud for Government. The GSA will use cloud infrastructure, software and services to lead the agency's transformation to a faster, more efficient business model that provides cost savings for the government with next generation customer service capabilities.
 
RALPH CHAPMAN is the Vice President, Public Sector for IBM Canada.  In this capacity, Mr. Chapman is responsible for providing the full range of IBM products, services, solutions and consulting to Canadian governments, education and healthcare institutions and life sciences.