The UK government’s cloud-first policy means public sector organisations across the country are looking to the cloud to deliver public services. But how can these deployments be managed successfully? Experts lifted the lid on some of the challenges and opportunities presented by cloud computing at Tech Monitor’s recent Public Sector Technology Symposium.
Held at etc.venues Fenchurch on Thursday, October 6, the event featured a panel entitled Effective techniques for managing the cost of cloud computing. Hosted by Benjamin Shrive, head of cloud for UK and Ireland at event sponsor AMD, the discussion featured Richard Stinton, senior cloud economics consultant at Source Code Control, Joe McGrath, cloud economist at Kainos, Dr James Mitchell president, chief strategy officer and founder of Strategic Blue, and Idaliz Baez, founder of RealOps.io.
You can listen to the full recording of the panel below:
Energy costs put cloud in the spotlight
While cloud adoption across the public sector has so far been mixed, rising electricity prices could see migrations accelerate, said Stinton, particularly for councils and other local government organisations which do not benefit from discounted buying agreements negotiated by central government, and often have tech set-ups located in “Victorian town halls”.
He recalled working with one local authority where “if you switched both kettles on in a kitchen, it would take out the data centre in the town hall basement.” These types of organisations are “going to see a massive increase in electricity bills,” he added. “For local government organisations, the cost of electricity is rapidly going to link to IT, as opposed to the lights in the office.”
Challenges of security and cost management
For public sector bodies looking to move systems to the cloud, a big challenge remains around security, Baez said. “I know that one of the first scary things which comes up is ‘oh no, we can’t have our data elsewhere and somebody else be the owner of our data’,” she said. “Trying to ensure there are sufficient security practices in place will be a hurdle to get over.”
McGrath added that cloud costs and the difficulties managing those costs can also be a barrier to adoption. “A lot of time cost data is seen as commercially sensitive, or it’s never been in the IT or digital team’s remit, so the data doesn’t get to the right people at the right time to help them make timely decisions to help with forecasting and pre-purchase agreements,” he said. “Part of the problem is getting the right data to the right people at the right time to inform those decisions, and FinOps can be the bridge to that.”
What does cloud best practice for the public sector look like?
FinOps, the idea that business and engineering teams will work together to oversee cloud deployments, is a popular way to manage cloud spend. Good communication is key to effective FinOps in the public sector, delegates heard.
Departments buying cloud services should look to take advantage of One Government Value Agreements (OGVA) negotiated by government procurement agency Crown Commercial Service (CCS), said Dr Mitchell. “If you’re involved in an organisation using cloud, if you don’t know what OGVA stands for, you’re missing a trick,” he said. “CCS has done a great job negotiating one government agreements with each of the big cloud providers. The discounts that are available for remarkably low commitments are well worth having. They look too good to be true, but they’re not.”
Sound planning is also key to getting value from cloud, Dr Mitchell added. “You should absolutely worth looking at where the different pockets of cloud usage are in your department, doing a spot of forecasting, get an idea of how much is being spent, share this with the vendors and plan it out,” he said.
“There are free services available to help you get up and running with this stuff, it doesn’t have to be difficult.”