UK public sector organisations are extending their use of public cloud services, eager to access scalable IT services and spurred by the pandemic. But finding the right skills, the right mix of services and providers, and the right architecture for cloud-hosted systems is a work in progress, and the journey is not without its challenges.
These were the lessons from a panel on cloud migration at Tech Monitor and New Statesman’s recent Public Sector Technology Symposium virtual event. Two public sector tech leaders shared their experience of cloud migration so far, while event sponsor AMD provided insight into how the cloud is poised to evolve.
Tracey Jessup, chief digital and information officer at UK Parliament, describes the organisation as an early cloud adopter, having implemented Microsoft’s Office 365 back in 2013, although it didn’t take full advantage of the platform until the pandemic. Early on, UK Parliament decided to move as many of its systems to the cloud – largely a “lift and shift” exercise, Jessup recalls – and has since been rearchitecting systems for the cloud.
One of the chief challenges to have emerged during that journey is the availability of cloud-related skills. “Securing the right people with the right skills is a constant ongoing challenge,” Jessup said, with fierce competition even within the public sector for cloud talent. For UK Parliament, one solution has been to recruit some roles on aptitude, not experience, Jessup explained, which has worked well.
Although it started with a multi-cloud environment, UK Parliament has since developed a strategic relationship with Microsoft. Focusing on the Azure platform and Microsoft’s partnership have allowed the organisation to ‘make strides’ in rearchitecting its systems for the cloud, Jessup explained, “and we’ve seen real benefits from that”.
By contrast, the Crown Prosecution Service has adopted a multi-cloud strategy, using services from Microsoft, AWS and Oracle. Fiona James, deputy director for digital technology, explained that this is born partly out of concern about the viability of individual vendors, and also from an aversion to vendor lock-in and the need for data availability. She added, though, that it is important to avoid dogma in these decisions, and instead to focus on maintaining service excellence.
Lee-Martin King, North EMEA commercial sales director at event sponsor AMD, provided an insight into the future of cloud computing. Public sectors should expect to see cloud providers offer new services focused on cybersecurity and environmental sustainability – both based in part on chip-level innovations.
In the meantime, King said, organisations migrating to the cloud are advised to ensure they have planned the transition as much as effectively possible. Those who haven’t may find they need to retreat from their cloud ambitions, he warned.