Government execs are becoming spoiled for choice with big cloud computing vendor offerings, but it is choosing the right network underneath it, which will determine success.
It would be entirely forgivable for any government executive to feel a headache coming on, when the topic of cloud computing hits their to-do list.
This would not be a pain born out of doubts about the wisdom of an increasingly cloud-first policy, rather from the bewildering array of seemingly tempting options on the table.
Where to start in realising the best value out of this crucial strategy?
Few sectors have been so zealously targeted by the world’s tech giants in the past 12 months than government cloud, as providers jostle for market share.
The likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud offer the kind of computing capacity that would have been unthinkable for most agencies in the recent past, but the truth is that choosing between big brand names is not going to determine success.
For the key ingredient you need to dig a little deeper under the surface, to the network that brings everything together.
No agency could, or should, be hosting all of their systems and services in the cloud of one single provider, and no agency can realistically contemplate leaving all of its legacy and on-premise applications and infrastructure behind.
A multi-cloud strategy is the choice for government CIOs looking to minimise risk and also reap the best bits from various offerings. The network underpinning this structure, therefore needs to be resilient, but also flexible and intelligent enough to know what it needs to be doing.
This is where companies like industry pioneer Cisco has stepped up, with next generation networks – known as intent-based networking solutions – which can learn, adapt and evolve with their organisations’ usage.
Rodney Hamill, director of Data Centre and Cloud at Cisco Australia and New Zealand says organisations need to start their planning by asking what they need their network to achieve.
This will incorporate the requirements of bringing together on-premise systems, with the software as a service applications central to digital transformation.
“Not all of your workload is going to reside in one place. You can have workloads on-premise, or in public clouds, or private clouds, but what matters is how you manage it and what control and visibility of the environment you have,” Hamill says.
“Anything hosted in the public cloud needs to be able to securely interact and exchange data with systems hosted on the private cloud … What Cisco has created is technology that allows the visibility, governance and the control to manage that.”
Cisco CloudCenter is the central point that can manage and monitor applications in multiple data centres, private and public clouds.
It now comes bundled with its HyperFlex platform, which is a converged infrastructure system to integrate computing, networking and storage resources across the various disparate environments.
It means the tech stack runs with greatly increased efficiency, while enabling centralised management of applications and resources.
Hamill says the strength and intelligence of the network should be therefore be viewed as the core foundation of a successful cloud environment in the public service.
“No network, no cloud. It’s pretty much as simple as that. The network is now facing a lot more pressures in these environments than it ever has.”
– Rodney Hamill, director of Data Centre and Cloud at Cisco Australia and New Zealand
“It needs to be fast, it needs to be efficient, but above all else, it needs to be programmable.”
For non-tech government executives that means business or policy intent is translated into how the network operates.
For example, if there are certain requirements or restrictions on what kind of data can be shared in particular areas, the network can learn this and ensure that it is handled appropriately.
“Think about an agency holding people’s health records. Those records are person identifiable and sensitive, therefore, I can set a policy that says what can and cannot be done with those files,” Hamill says.
“The network is programmable so you can demonstrably ensure that this dataset, or a particular type of infrastructure, cannot be accessible unless it goes through a security policy in a firewall.”
While Cisco’s essential networking smarts can work alongside all of the major cloud providers, it notably signed a partnership with Google for a new hybrid cloud solution late last year.
Google partnership offers choice
This means that both companies provide a unique and open hybrid cloud offering that enables applications and services to be deployed, managed and secured across on-premises environments and Google Cloud Platform.
Therefore, customers can expect cloud speed and scale, with market leading security. The details of the options are many and varied, but as tech staff go through the finer points they can see it covers crucial areas like orchestration, security, API management, support and developer tools.
“We wanted to enable applications to take advantage of the best of the cloud, and seamlessly integrate with existing IT assets on-premises,” senior vice president of Cisco’s Cloud Platform and Solutions Group, Kip Compton says.
“We wanted to ultimately offer a consistent environment on-premises and in the cloud so developers could develop wherever they want, and deploy wherever they want.
“We wanted to do it in a modern way that would enable continuous rapid innovation [and] deliver cloud agility and scale, coupled with enterprise-class security and support.”