Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

How the UK Public Sector can navigate a multi-cloud world

April 18, 2017

The UK Public Sector has matured in its uptake of cloud services over the past four years, and the Government Digital Service (GDS) recently announced its intention to move from Cloud First to Cloud Native:

“…we’ve begun to move away from the phrase ‘Cloud First’ and instead begin to think in terms of ‘Cloud Native.’ Cloud First is the policy we’ve agreed, but it’s not our aspiration.” (GDS)

Cloud Native relates to patterns in application design running within a cloud architecture. You may have heard the term ‘born in the cloud’. These are typically Linux containers, and the concept of applications assembled as micro-services within these containers.

Micro-services are developed using DevOps practices, so that new business logic and code changes can be deployed in an agile manner to add value to a business quickly. Unlike traditional monolithic applications, these micro-services are not dependent on the underlying infrastructure, as availability is designed into the application.

Cloud-native applications are meant to function in a world of cloud computing that is ubiquitous and flexible. Applications can be developed on a cloud platform then deployed to different clouds, where supporting software stacks will help them run at scale.

Furthermore, open source code drives continuous innovation for a business. This is another key consideration in a cloud native world.

So, what does Cloud Native mean for Government?

In summary, I read this as cloud and internet by default. The GDS blog touches on the following five points:

  1. An intent to move towards a Cloud Native mode of operation, whereby the Government will need to adapt how it delivers services natively from the cloud (optimised for the cloud), and not a migration of existing virtualised workloads to cloud environments
  2. The term is used more broadly to include the flexible adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, which are often loosely coupled and quite task specific
  3. It will embrace new cloud technologies like ‘serverless’ computing
  4. An API-centric approach  will let Government easily integrate new SaaS applications into the other architectures
  5. The need to transform how Government monitors and manages distributed systems

Public Sector cloud adoption generally falls into three categories, and all three approaches are being deployed at the same time, across different departments and functions:

  1. Private DC First – High % On-prem Private Data Centre and Low % SaaS
  2. Cloud First – Hybrid IT with a balanced mix of SaaS, IaaS and On-prem (non-cloud)
  3. Cloud Native (All In) – High % IaaS and Moderate % SaaS

A multi-cloud approach is gaining momentum and there is recognition that a one-size cloud model does not fit all. Users are adopting the right cloud securely for the right service, controlling the right workload with the right policies at the right time. This strategy is the ideal choice, allowing the UK Public Sector to customise its deployments and maximise value.

The multi-cloud approach will minimise the risk of widespread data loss or downtime due to localised cloud service outage. It can also avoid proprietary vendor lock-in by using different infrastructures to meet the Public Sector’s diverse needs.

What are those needs?

…Well, it depends on where you are on your cloud adoption journey, for example, application design and latency requirements, the volume of data and its portability, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and, of course, available budgets.

There are common patterns emerging however, and Public Sector cloud adoption journeys can be categorised as follows:

  1. Build Agile In-house ICT (Private DC First)

These organisations are typically a Business-as-Usual (BAU) operating model with in-house ICT skills and specific workloads that are unsuitable for the public cloud for either security, cost or latency reasons. The focus here is building private clouds with a view to adopting a hybrid model.

  1. Consume Managed IT Service Delivery

Typically a Business-as-Usual (BAU) with consumption operating model, possessing limited in-house ICT skills and a preference for procuring managed IT and cloud services. The focus here is managed private clouds.

  1. Shared Services and Joint Partnerships

Typically, shared service consumers looking to purchase ICT services through regional partnerships or the Crown Hosting DCs.

  1. Consumer to IT Service Provider

Looking to build Shared Services infrastructure and offer their service to other parts of the UK Public Sector. They are essentially transitioning from IT consumers to IT service providers.

  1. Cloud Native

Are ‘cloud all-in’ and develop and operate cloud native applications in the public cloud. Applications are either developed in the cloud or re-platformed as SaaS.

Successful G-Cloud suppliers offer a range of cloud services and deployment models, with different levels of assurance to meet the security and business requirements of consumers. Each deployment model is associated with particular security characteristics and SLAs that dictate which applications and services may run over them.

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