Wednesday 11 April 2012

The government's plans for cloud computing – hot air?

HMG have come up with another one of their questionable posts about cloud computing. And once again, the questions have been duly submitted as a comment on the HMG blog. Will they publish the comment this time? They didn't last time. And will they answer the questions?

It's all getting very butch. Under the picture of a leopard with its impressive mouth open Chris Chant, the Programme Director for G-Cloud, says:
There is still plenty more to do and, if I look back on the last dozen years and honestly reflect on those I’ve worked with and interacted with, this is still a pretty difficult list of stuff to do and some of those people just don’t have the capability to do it.  They will have to look hard at themselves and decide how they are going to resolve that because it will turn out to be the toughest thing that they have done in their career so far.
The leopard's got plenty but does the G-Cloud Programme have any teeth?

Dear Mr Chant

Few would disagree with your analysis of the current problems with a lot of UK government IT. The search is on for a better way. The question is, have you found a better way?

The better way you propose is digital by default and customer-centric. But the two don't mix. 10 million of your customers have never used the web. To concentrate on digital by default is to ignore 10 million of your customers and – I say this more hesitantly than it sounds – you are fooling yourself if you think otherwise. Is digital by default, for 10 million people, the very opposite of customer-centric? Your answer to that? So far, a phrase – "assisted digital". An empty phrase.

The media is knee-deep in cyber (in)security stories. Every time you re-announce your plans there's always just been another one of these stories. Apart from Anonymous taking down the Home Office website for Easter, the latest serious insecurity story is the update on RSA themselves being hacked by the Chinese. If RSA can't operate securely, how can Whitehall? They can't. Is G-Cloud a strategic mistake, securitywise? Your answer to that? So far, silence.

Judging by Mr Scaife's "no-brainer" post, the Cloud means no capital expenditure. Which means Whitehall would be using Amazon's servers. Or Google's or whoever's. And where will these servers be? Wherever Amazon or Google or Microsoft or whoever put them. Which could be anywhere. Which could be beyond British jurisdiction. And access could anyway be subject to Anonymous's permission. Will Whitehall literally lose control of its applications and its data? Our data, rather. Your answer to that? So far, silence.

Last time the world used timesharing – the 1970s – costs went through the roof. Why wouldn't the same happen this time? Your answer to that? So far, silence.

What we do get from you is assertions about the agility and affordability of cloud computing. But no examples. How about taking a big government contract, an existing one, as a worked example, and telling us in detail how we can avoid the saga-length contracts and the King Midas costs while at the same time delivering customised services instantly? ("Instantly" is probably going a bit far but a lot of your sales talk sounds as though that's what you're offering.) Without a worked example, it's all just talk.

At least that's the danger. It was great the first time. 20 October 2011. And it's great listening to you every few weeks telling the dinosaurs to show themselves out of Whitehall. But meantime the dinosaurs are still in situ, still signing contracts, sagas just like the old contracts, they're still denominated in years and in billions of pounds and the counterparties are still the same old suppliers. Where's the agility? Where's the affordability? Your answer to that? So far, silence.

I shan't ask you to defend your claim that Whitehall is now "open". There's quite enough else there for you to get your leopard's teeth into.

Yours sincerely
David Moss


David Moss said...

The UK government must make sure that G-Cloud, a cloud computing provider, has implemented proper security measures to protect their information

1. It's not their information, it's ours.

2. If the government can't make sure that any given cloud computing supplier has implemented property security measures, then they mustn't entrust our information to that supplier – is the set of all such suppliers greater than the null set?

Jane said...

While investing in cloud computing and IT support is generally beneficial for any institution, we cannot deny its possible risks as well. Before the government signs any contract, they should investigate and research further on these cloud computing services in Bristol first.

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