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Cloud 'not ready for public sector market'

Still presents a risk for public services, warns local government IT chief

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Chris Pope, director of transformation at Merton council, told the Guardian's SmartGov Live event in London that he was "nervous" about adopting cloud computing and being infrastructure free.

"Why? Because I do not trust the supply market yet," he said. "The number of instances of organisations taking their IT services back in-house, because the service they have got from their supplier has not been up to standard, are too frequent at the moment and there is too much risk at this stage … to be completely infrastructure free."

Another issue, says Pope, is whether application providers would be willing to deliver services that will sit within a limited cloud.

Steve Palmer, the chief information officer and head of ICT at Hillingdon council, said the aim should be to be as infrastructure free as possible. But he outlined one of the issues which his council has already experienced: "I have had problems over the last couple of days with the London Storage Area Network, and I have some of the best technicians in local government.

"We've realised that no matter how much we run our own stuff, there are still vagaries in the market which provides it in the first place."

Where Palmer believes the public sector is particularly vulnerable is in choosing suppliers with enough capacity and resilience to be able to keep cloud services going during a major failure.

Andy Tait, who until the end of March was deputy director of the G Cloud programme at the Cabinet Office and is now head of public sector strategy for cloud services company VMware, emphasised that cloud is an approach to technology rather than a new technology.

He said that the UK public sector was under enormous pressure to cut costs, while maintaining critical frontline services, and IT has a significant role to play in achieving those objectives. "But it can only do that by facing the fundamental transformation to move from the direct and dedicated style of IT infrastructure to a more dynamic and shared common infrastructure that is possible through virtualisation and some cloud technologies."

Tait pointed out that during his time at the Cabinet Office he worked to create a "baseline" for how the public sector could use the cloud.

This work is continuing under the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, he said, and one of the deadlines in the government's ICT strategy is for an implementation of cloud within six months, which means by the end of September.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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