Why hybrid cloud is the smart next step for central government agencies
- Posted on November 7, 2023
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
Central government agencies would be the first to agree that they operate within unique circumstances when it comes to moving their IT systems towards a cloud-first approach. This often means digital transformation models that replicate pathways that work for multinational companies don’t add value, because they’re not tailored to address the specific challenges government agencies face.
Success lies in letting these challenges shape the solution - working with existing constraints, rather than pushing against them. This will enable government agencies to make staged changes that fit their circumstances, unlocking benefits at every step.
Hybrid Cloud is an ideal transitionary choice for central government agencies, offering the benefits of public cloud when its available and when it makes sense to use it, combined with the data residency and performance benefits of private cloud.
The challenges hybrid cloud must tackle head-on
The standout challenge for new IT investment is securing budget in an extremely tight fiscal environment where the emphasis is on doing more with less. To a large extent, a lack of budget has meant departments have had to rely on legacy systems for too long. This has led to high levels of ‘technical debt’, run up by the costs of maintaining those legacy systems, as well as the expense of consequent data and cyber security risks, and an inability to innovate on outdated systems that aren’t widely supported.
In 2021, a Cabinet Office report revealed that the government spent £2.3bn - almost half of its IT budget – on patching up systems, some of which are more than 30 years old. A startling projection showed that the government could end up spending between £13bn and £22bn by 2026 on obsolete systems.
However, the sheer scale of the challenge can often prove to be paralysing. Although government agencies can have ambitious digital expectations, the headache of moving away from legacy tech can block change – particularly when essential government functions depend on them, and any failure during migration would be a high-profile, wide-impact event.
Within this context, a cautious approach to change is both understandable and justified – but there are further barriers. There are perceptions that moving core capabilities to the cloud would be too expensive, and concerns that hosting these workloads in public clouds won’t get regulatory approval because they’re not sufficiently proven. In other cases, cloud migration is planned, but it’s not happening at scale. Plus, some departments are wary of opting for a public cloud provider and then finding themselves locked into that vendor, to their future disadvantage.
Layered on top of these challenges is the increasing imperative to improve sustainability across all aspects of the agency’s operations – including tackling energy-hungry IT, particularly datacentres. As government leads the way in terms of sustainability commitments, the imperative to demonstrate carbon reductions is growing.
And, of course, any move to the cloud that a government agency makes must come with security assurances around data protection, regulatory compliance and onshore data residency.
Using a stepping-stone approach to maximise cloud benefits
Moving to Hybrid Cloud is an effective stepping-stone for government agencies navigating through these challenges. It’s a measured move forward that combines private cloud capability for workloads that need it, as well as open access to the public clouds that support genuine agility and innovation.
Our Private Cloud as a Service (PCaaS) solution allows government agencies to become fully hybrid. Avanade’s PCaaS solution in partnership with Equinix, is a secure, private cloud platform using cutting-edge Azure Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) to provide a software-defined datacentre. It delivers a secure hosting area capable of supporting the most legacy of legacy systems, as well as services government agencies don’t want to put in public clouds. Equinix datacentres were the obvious choice for this solution because they have a long and trusted pedigree of supporting government agencies.
We’ve combined this heritage with private cloud facilities built on the latest modern technology - Azure Stack HCI. This is increasingly used by other cloud environments which means, when an agency is ready, this compatibility will smooth their cloud development pathway. What’s more, Azure Stack HCI makes economic sense. It efficiently enables one node to host compute, storage and networking, removing the need for different infrastructure for each of these functions, offering valuable opportunities to reduce opex costs. Hybrid Cloud also allows efficient use of public clouds, with drastically reduced egress charges, but without committing to a single provider. This avoids any lock-in situations that could lead to inflexibility and negatively impact on an agency’s ability to evolve their infrastructure.
This modern way of managing an environment is available across datacentres and multiple secure locations in the UK, providing UK data residency using technology accredited for data classified as secret.
However, as part of the Equinix global network of modern and sustainable datacentres, these UK locations can also offer unrivalled, direct connectivity to public cloud for government agencies when needed. This is because the majority of public service providers use Equinix as their ‘superhighway’ to host their network on-ramps, so the data of any organisation using our PCaaS solution is located right next to all the public clouds, but not physically in them. Plus, should an agency need to send UK-based data out of country as part of multi-government collaboration, the Equinix global network makes it easy to establish secure cloud connections.
Delivering control, agility and sustainability
PCaaS enables government agencies to retain control - over the speed and shape of their cloud evolution, as well as over where their data will best sit in the future. Our private cloud provides a secure holding environment for deployments from which various applications can be transformed, or lifted to public cloud, when the time is right.
In the meantime, PCaaS removes the pain of hardware procurement, lifecycle, integration and management. With our PCaaS solution incorporating Equinix datacentres, government agencies can locate themselves in the heart of all the services they’re using now, and those that they’ll use in the future. It’s a de-risked way to achieve rapid returns and secure flexible connections to their choice of SaaS providers. It gets applications, workloads and data in the right place while protecting agility, securing the best costs and driving down carbon emissions.
Explore the potential of PCaaS
Government agencies need to be able to do more with less. The smartest route to this is operating a true hybrid model that’s bundled with connectivity to the hyperscale clouds and critical business partners.