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Green light spells opportunity for public sector

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Earlier this year CRN magazine published some interesting findings on Cloud take-up within the NHS. Actually, scrub 'interesting'; try startling. For the year 2016, research (based on FoI responses from 102 of the 161 NHS Trusts in England) revealed that of the £448.13m NHS Trusts were spending on IT overall, just 0.71 per cent of it went on Cloud, down from 0.81 per cent the year before.

Now even allowing for the fact that the Trust respondents may not have correctly accounted for all Cloud usage, the underlying figure is fairly woeful, with Cloud not so much sky-rocketing as bumping along the bottom. Are we surprised? Yes and no. Yes, given that obvious catalysts G-Cloud and Cloud First have been in play for some years now; and no, in that big shifts and seismic change often have a long, protracted, painfully uphill early adoption phase to go through.

What I can predict is that should CRN repeat its research in, say, two years' time, I will be prefacing the word findings with 'encouraging'. And while we may not see a riotous upswing we will see at the very least a steady uptick in Cloud fortunes. And the reason for such confident clairvoyance?

Two things primarily. The first is linked to the Government Digital Service's very significant issuing back in January of a Technology Code of Practice around public sector use of the Public Cloud. It said: “It’s possible for public sector organisations to safely put highly personal and sensitive data into the Public Cloud….Cloud providers have a significant budget to maintain, patch and secure their cloud infrastructure. This means Public Cloud services can mitigate many common risks that often pose challenges for government organisations.”

This effectively is a green light for the public sector to take advantage of the Public Cloud, with all its infinite elasticity, immediacy and economy. It's a good fit for enterprise organisations with big, expansive, continuous and diverse needs, its scope and hyper-scale effortlessly flexing to whatever is asked of it, even if only for an hour (with billing per minute to prove it). Crucially, the GDS has validated what we on this side of the fence have known for a while: that the security and data assurance investments being made by the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure hugely outstrip anything even the largest corporation is capable of, and thus the Public Cloud can be trusted when it comes to safeguarding sovereign data.

I will add one caveat to that which will bring me neatly onto my second point. Public Cloud providers operate with a shared responsibility model when it comes to security, so users have to do their bit; there's no get out here, they have to apply the same disciplines to platform and application security as if they were being run on-premises or collocated. But for many potential customers this is an unfamiliar world; they may have got the green light but are they confident about driving through it? And security is just one part of the picture.

With the money increasingly on hybrid cloud becoming the de facto enterprise IT model, with users managing workloads between on-premises, private and Public Clouds, there's a new potential barrier to adoption: this is quite complex stuff and the requisite know-how in-house may be lacking. Imagine a conductor being asked to lead not just one orchestra but several; it's sort of his skill set, but it isn't quite. It's making new demands that he understands but struggles to execute - three batons in two hands anyone?

For a lot of IT teams looking at 'orchestrating' their hybrid environments, this is what they are feeling: they're ready, they're willing, they just need a hand with the able bit. Which explains why the likes of Redcentric see Public Cloud not as a threat but rather as an opportunity; it's an extension of our playground, giving us all the benefits of this infinitely scalable, pay-as-you-go enterprise resource that we can exploit in turn for our clients.

Our core business has always been about the operational and management support of clients, not the platform per se. Clients aren't valuing us for our technical commodities, they're valuing us for the expertise and care we take in building the strategies, utilising those commodities and guiding their IT journey. That's the differentiator, and we will use any and every tool at our disposal to optimise that support. That's why last year we started to offer a route into AWS, and why this autumn, as part of our on-going AWS partnership, we will launch connectivity for AWS into the HSCN/N3 network. It’s also why we continue to invest in specialist resource for mapping and managing migrations to a hybrid model, including full deployments within AWS, Azure and Google environments.

In short, we are fully committed to Public Cloud, to embracing it within our portfolio to create more opportunities and more value for our customers. However many orchestras there are, we will always have enough hands - and enough batons.

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