The Cloud offers a platform for accelerating digital innovations in Scotland.
The Herald described how it presents Scottish businesses with the innovation computing power of NASA, and the ScotGov Digital Economy plan defines a number of specific action points for accelerating adoption:
Mandate the use of common platforms and infrastructure, including cloud hosting, as appropriate across the Scottish Government.
Make better use of cloud-based solutions as a source of both cost reduction and service innovation, and move public sector data hosting to a cloud environment wherever this is appropriate in terms of security and efficiency.
As early as 2013 it was recognised that government procurement of Cloud was an essential dynamic for stimulating the Scottish tech sector, and Holyrood Magazine ran a roundtable asking what would it take to grow adoption. The Scottish Government has published this Cloud Computing Guidance.
Government at Scale – Moving out of the basement
Niall Creech, Head of Cloud Engineering at the Ministry of Justice, provides this excellent case study of the type of benefits Scottish agencies can seek from doing so, documenting their move to the AWS Cloud as shifting to Government at Scale.
Other agencies like the Home Office are also seeking to replicate the move.
Niall makes the point that in today’s IT world there is little value to be had in operating traditional data centres any more, and moving to the Cloud represents “moving out of the basement”.
It’s not simply a process of outsourcing, transfering the same technology paradign from in-house to an external supplier, but of harnessing an entirely new paradigm all together.
The case study offers a very articulate definition of how Cloud provides an ‘Agile Infrastructure’. Instead of just migrating the same virtual servers to IaaS, Niall describes how they have embraced Cloud Native building blocks, such as containerized applications, serverless functions and elastic storage, to make possible more dynamic and agile provisioning and management of IT infrastructure. For example all live services have the ability to have any of their servers destroyed without notice, with no alerts and no user impact.
By creating apps through composing together AWS services as building blocks, and automating deployment through nested stack templates the team are able to abstract themselves away from low level administrative work, enabling a focus on value generating digital services, not IT operations:
We were also quick to understand the value of freeing people from maintenance, data security, and disaster recovery that key managed services like Amazon RDS gives.
Even with high degrees of automation, maintaining a growing infrastructure places a burden on an organisation that can hold it back from achieving its core aim, developing and providing people with the digital services they need from modern government.
Other case studies include Derby City Council, who have similarly moved out of the basement to drive cost reduction of on-premise software licencing, among other benefits including:
- achieved significant reductions in total ICT spend
- improved server monitoring and optimisation
- the ability to respond more flexibly to changing business needs
- transferred repetitive tasks, such as server patching, to a supplier
- reduced the time, effort and cost to procure and manage new services
- accessed suppliers with niche skills that traditional outsourcing would exclude
Similarly the DWP saved £20m a year by migrating their ‘Tell Us Once’ digital service away from a single, non-extendable managed contract. This case study also highlights the agile nature of the G-Cloud procurement process too; under very tight timescales they were able to utilize the fast-moving process to secure the deal in only 8 weeks.
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service faced a challenge of a complex legacy telephony equipment causing excessive costs and becoming entirely obsolete with no support. Again leveraging the G-Cloud procurement marketplace they sourced a modern Skype for Business based solution, one that provided all of the same core features they needed plus a host of new ones, such as multimedia collaboration, intelligent call routing and integration with fire station PA systems to announce emergency messages.