Cloudy thinking

UK business is grasping opportunity while Government may miss outIn April 2009, the UK Treasury unveiled its Operational Efficiency programme and set out to save £7.2 billion from IT and back-office systems, with shared services and outsourcing fundamental to the transformation. The G-Cloud was to form a key part of the strategy.

John Suffolk, Government CIO, announced plans in January this year to create a secure Government cloud infrastructure. An aggressive timescale was outlined, but while a pause for rethought is unsurprising under a new administration, things have now slowed to a snail’s pace.

Cloud computing holds huge potential for UK Government. With over 10,000 different software products and services in use, the prospect of everyone using the same applications for common functions could save vast amounts of money and streamline procurement.

Westminster departments and the UK's 750 non-departmental public bodies rely on 130 data centres, a figure Suffolk estimates could be reduced to about 12. Although the drive for Government to reduce its environmental load and meet its green targets is ever-present, it seems little is moving.

The commercial sector is embracing cloud with alacrity; having completed its own period of reflection most major firms are moving rapidly into action. Gartner placed it at the top of the list of strategic technologies for 2010. The Government had seemed well on the cloud path and its extensive work with Capgemini and other IT players brought it to the point where solutions were ready for it to adopt. Capgemini has fully completed demonstrations and proofs of concept that could help the new administration towards its economic and efficiency goals if it could move smartly towards firm decisions and implementation.

Capgemini understands the path to the cloud is not easy. Organisations move at different paces, have varied starting points and drivers for transformation. Capgemini’s Cloud Readiness Assessment and Strategy service helps them to assess whether they should move ahead and creates actionable plans within a period of 4 to 5 weeks. Its Accelerated Solutions Environment model helps CIOs understand fully the relevance of the cloud to their organisation. It is heavily supported and, once clear outcomes are defined, moves rapidly to create 30-day proofs of concept or pilot plans. CIOs can work with some of Capgemini’s smartest business analysts and consultants over an intense 2- to 3-day period, secure in the knowledge that Capgemini, unlike many others, is completely technology-independent. It has no platform or product agenda and can focus on finding the right solutions for the client.

Capgemini has vast experience and proven record of helping any organisation through fundamental system and process transformation. Its award-winning work with HMRC is a case in point. Moving a critical service like Tax Credits away from 20-year old data centres into more resilient, state-of-the-art facilities could have been highly disruptive, but the transitions were planned, rehearsed and executed entirely invisibly to the 6 million families that depend on it. As Mark Hall, HMRC IT Director said “Successfully moving huge amounts of data and 17 IT systems with 300 interfaces over a weekend is a fantastic achievement.”

Capgemini has created a new global Infostructure Transformation Services unit to accelerate clients’ ability to drive sustainable cost reduction using cloud services. This unit draws together the company’s experience of helping clients make savings and reduce carbon footprint, they can also benefit from Capgemini’s new green data centres.

It is clear that Government could be benefiting from the cloud computing ‘stack,’ including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). At the Infrastructure level, new developments in data centres are striding towards a greener and more sustainable future. At the platform level, the Government’s concept of an IT development ‘skunk works’ could have great benefits if it had a virtual development environment from which to design, test and deploy new systems and software efficiently. At the software level, the concept of a Government AppStore could be the basis for bringing economical shared services to life.

The Government needs the cloud to achieve 25 percent in cost savings from IT operations. It is doubtful it will achieve more than 15 percent unless it fundamentally changes its approach. Power-reduction targets and related resource efficiencies simply cannot be met without a consolidated data centre strategy.

Recently Gartner reported that the UK is leading the world in the adoption of SaaS and cloud computing. It predicts that 95 percent of companies will increase their adoption this year in a cloud services market set to surpass £45 billion by the end of 2010. Almost 30 percent of global growth will come from UK companies. Unfortunately the UK Government is not at the leading edge of this incredible change; it could be, if it focused on its ICT directions.

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1 Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2010 (
3 Worldwide Cloud Services Market to Surpass $68 billion in 2010 (