Did the definition of “cloud” add to the challenges?

In the past 12 months, we’ve been exploring cloud transformation across the public sector. writes Russell McDonald, HPE’s chief technology officer for the public sector and hybrid cloud

A topic that was brought up again and again was the discrepancy and confusion in cloud definition and policy perception. When interviewed for our documentary series, Consciously hybridCloud has been used interchangeably by many technologists and organizations. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines “cloud computing” as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, and on-demand network access to a shared set of configurable computing resources (such as networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and deployed with minimal management effort or interaction Service Provider.

NIST defines “public cloud” as one of four deployment models along with community cloud, hybrid cloud, and private cloud. While NIST is a US government definition, the UK government has referred to it in its cloud policy first. However, it does not set the standards for the UK. Despite a widely adopted definition that includes multiple options for cloud computing, the UK government specifically defines cloud first as public cloud which further contributes to the confusion in the term itself.

The distinction between public cloud, hyperscale cloud, hybrid cloud, and private cloud has, in some cases, led organizations to find themselves stuck between strategies, platforms, operating models, and funding paths.

the Cloud first policy Arguably, reformulating the meaning of the cloud from the choice of technology for individual departments to a matter of overall government policy. The cloud should be considered an experience, or a way to consume technology. So technology strategy should remain grounded in the fundamentals of putting the right workloads, in the right place, for the right reason. This could be on premise, or a private cloud, the edgeand/or multicloud and/or public cloud.

Cloud computing is an evolution of information technology in general. So the focus should shift to “how” to modernize workloads in terms of cloud-native design, rather than just thinking about “where” to migrate workloads. In the past decade, the answer to “where” has been the public cloud. This shift in thinking is critical to achieving the digital government agenda moving forward.

With this in mind, we Talk to Paul Neville During his time as Director of Digital and ICT in London’s Waltham Forest, to understand his perception of ‘the cloud’ and the resulting approach to transformation.

Paul’s definition was consistent with a cloud-first policy, realizing that the public cloud is the solution to the problems of transformation. With limited digital skills and budget, the town has been forced into a cycle of short-term value decisions rather than long-term influence, or the town’s development and digital strategy. In addition to the rising digital expectations of citizens, the town has reached a critical moment where it needs to transform to serve their requirements and prepare for the future.

Consciously take a hybrid approach

The town has identified the public cloud as a key enabler for modernizing its legacy technology by lifting and shifting obsolete workloads and applications. To reduce risk and maintain cost efficiency, the town has invested a significant amount of time in learning to better understand cloud technologies and the value they can deliver. Taking the time to understand what cloud means to them enabled them to advance skills within the company in a unified way with a unified cloud definition.

Paul explained, “In order to scale, we knew we would need to explore and invest in cloud technology. However, we understand that not all of our data and workloads are suitable for migration.

“Our on-premises data center allows us to keep some of the information where it works best and provides a replica data center for disaster recovery. We took a hybrid approach in our journey to the cloud so we can implement and exploit the benefits of the cloud, while ensuring little impact on the citizen experience.”

Too often, technologists view cloud adoption as a predetermined, yes or no choice—either widespread adoption of the public cloud or not. And this has been perpetuated by a cloud-first policy, which has led to the use of public clouds specifically. Despite paving the way to the public cloud, the policy offers little guidance on how to get there, how to handle legacy workloads, edge states and sensitive data. Whatever our research suggests is not, and may not be, suitable for public cloud environments.

The static public cloud narrative has reinforced the prejudice that the public cloud is “good,” leading people to believe everything else is “bad” or the “old-fashioned way of doing things.”

The lack of a widespread definition of the cloud contributes to this. The public cloud is just one instance of modern cloud-native technology and other options are available. The hybrid approach consciously recognizes the value each of these options brings in a practical and strategic way.

We believe it’s time to consider a more conscious path to cloud transformation – to be open to the opportunities and options that cloud and hybrid approaches provide.

We continue to explore cloud transformation and share the diverse strategies and approaches public sector technologists are taking. If you’d like to get involved or share your views, reach out or join the conversation with #ConsciouslyHybrid.

Hear more from “Paul Neville”

Read the Cloud Strategy Report

Watch the full documentary

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