Hybrid cloud can play a major role in a new infrastructure for local government, writes David Keigher, public sector lead for HPE
Covid-19 is an unprecedented event that has placed local government under extreme pressure. It has suddenly had to increase its service delivery while dramatically reorganising its workforce – with any changes in supporting technology – to ensure that people can work successfully from home.
It faces a further challenge in the recovery from this pandemic – to support local businesses as they struggle to get back on their feet. Technology will be crucial to this effort, and councils can provide the leadership for a regeneration of their local economies.
A rapid transformation has been thrust upon local authorities. They have had to quickly restructure their digital infrastructure, many with an emphasis on the use of the hybrid cloud, to harness virtual collaboration tools and mobile apps and extend their networks for home working.
In general they are finding that it not only works, but it works well. And that these emergency measures are now being seen as the beginning of a long term transition supported by a change in the culture around work. No doubt some elements of the traditional set-up will return post-pandemic, but there will be a very different landscape with a more flexible, digitally enabled approach to work.
HPE has provided guidance on how local government can respond to the challenge with an e-book on the effective use of hybrid cloud – a dynamic combination of public and private clouds, which can incorporate some on-premise hosting of data and applications – showing how it offers a path to a new environment and lays the ground for future digital innovations.
It points to the advantages of hybrid cloud, including the capacity to provide an infrastructure for the rapid implementation of remote tools and services – which has been a key feature of the local government response to Covid-19.
Along with this is the scope to optimise costs, the robust security and privacy offered by reputable cloud providers, and the flexibility for stepping up computing power to support new services and the scaling up of existing ones as required.
There are challenges involved in its adoption. One is to optimise the workload performance in real time, with continual, data driven tuning of how it is distributed across cloud services and intelligent planning for anticipated demands.
Second is to maintain a secure infrastructure, which goes beyond the protection of software and networks to looking at the whole operation and using intelligent tools and options to protect any data centre within the hybrid.
Third is the need for a proactive stance in anticipating the demand on digital resources, along with the use of intelligent services to collect information on operations and share it throughout the infrastructure.
It is notable that the Cloud guide for the public sector, published by the Government Digital Service and the Government Procurement Function, provides scope for this. While urging organisations to consider public cloud as the first option, it acknowledges that there are circumstances where the other deployment models are appropriate.
The guide also points to the need to consider the options carefully in choosing a hosting strategy, starting with the problems and picking the simplest options possible. It emphasises the importance of controlling costs through avoiding up-front charges, continuous optimisation and being ready to stop spending if business priorities change. And it points to the need to balance the risks of technical lock-in by agreeing contracts of an appropriate length, retaining ownership of intellectual property and retaining access to any data held by third parties.
It makes the point that properly implemented cloud technology can improve speed of delivery, increase security and create opportunities for organisations to innovate.
HPE provides a flexible, software defined approach to supporting a hybrid cloud, using its HPE ProLiant servers and HPE InfoSight predictive analytics platform that can predict and prevent problems in the data centre before they occur. This provides an intelligent compute foundation, available as-a-service, to optimise the workload, automate operations and provide strong security.
It is backed up by HPE OneView, a converged infrastructure management platform that provides a single interface for managing software defined systems, which makes it possible to automate management and maintenance tasks for servers, storage arrays and network connectivity.
In addition, HPE Right Mix Advisor is a combination of software tools and consultancy for finding the best cloud options for hosting applications and workloads. It helps you to assess data on the software and service capacity at a granular level, weighting its importance according to the organisation’s operations, and provides scores for different cloud services on their capacity to meet the need. This can be adopted for government-specific needs to speed up migrations and sharply reduce costs.
All this is accompanied by an agreement between HPE and the Crown Commercial Service on specific pricing, terms and conditions for the public sector, which makes it faster and easier for local authorities to access the infrastructure.
Local economy factor
Councils’ effort to get to a better place extends to supporting local businesses in adapting to a new approach to work. They can provide exemplars of how to use digital technology, and a source of advice for businesses in their communities.
Many will see them as trustworthy sources for building local collaboration, and their chief information officers can provide beacons of trust for businesses in adapting their infrastructures to a new landscape. It is about place and community, and the role of councils in local economies.
There will be questions around the pressure on resources, but large IT companies are often ready to provide support - for example, HPE can offer free webinars and learning programmes supporting businesses in using digital to get back on their feet.
Hybrid cloud is likely to be a big ingredient in the mix, offering possibilities as relevant to the private as public sector. The lessons that councils learn from its deployment can be relevant to many local businesses, and the guidance from HPE is a strong starting point for the whole process.
For both sectors there is a great opportunity in the current crisis to develop a new approach to work underpinned by a new, more flexible infrastructure. Downloading the e-book – Serve Today, Build Tomorrow – can be the first step towards a positive long term achievement.