Does Australia need a cloud computing visionary?


blog On the blog of local cloud computing startup Ninefold, the company’s managing director Peter James raises an interesting question — does Australia need a cloud computing visionary to really push the nation’s cloud computing journey forward?

In the US, James points out, the Federal Government’s whole of government chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, drove a ‘cloud first’ policy which significantly changed the way the country thinks about cloud adoption. Kundra has resigned now, of course, but the effects of his vision continue to be felt, with the UK Government now following. Writes James:

“With the US and now UK examples, surely its time to call in the cavalry and have Australian governments follow this lead. Without federal, state, territory and local governments playing a leading role there is a real risk that the innovations and investments made by Australian ICT companies will not be enough to prevent Australian cloud from lagging further behind. Cloud computing adoption in this country is calling out for some real leadership. Where is our own Vivek Kundra going to come from?”

From my perspective, we do have a couple of high-profile IT executives in Australia who have been pushing the cloud message strongly. Commonwealth Bank chief information officer Michael Harte is probably the most prominent of those, but Westpac’s Bob McKinnon has also been making the case for cloud.

And although his company Altium is a much smaller player, fellow CIO Alan Perkins has also been extremely vocal about the cloud in Australia, both through his prolific writing on the topic, as well as speaking in public and demonstrating how cloud computing and software as a service can be used in the enterprise.

I would argue that other thought leaders would include CSC Australia chief technology & innovation officer Bob Hayward and Fujitsu chief technology officer and executive general manager of marketing Craig Baty. Both obviously have a barrow to push from the vendor side, but they also both have extensive past histories in the analyst community. I have found their cloud knowledge and awareness of the Australian marketplace to be second to none.

Do we need a more concerted effort from CIOs, vendors, government figures and so on on the cloud? Do we need Australia’s own Federal Government CIO, Ann Steward, to make some sort of dramatic ‘Cloud First’ statement? Personally, I’m not sure.

I think much of what James is talking about with respect to the cloud in Australia refers to the cloud at “The Peak of Inflated Expectations” on Gartner’s hype cycle. Cloud First sounds great in practice … but like any artificial imposition on technology projects, it’s not something that will be held to in practice — and if it is, it has the potential to be harmful.

Do you go “outsourcing first”, “on-premises first” or “open source first”? No. For each technology implementation, you look at the best option overall to suit your needs. You don’t arbitrarily pick a technology — you pick a solution. I’m not sure whether cloud is still at that obnoxious hype cycle peak in the US. But in Australia, cloud computing has definitely entered at least Gartner’s Trough of Disillusionment state, and it’s possibly heading back up to the Slope of Enlightenment and Plateau of Productivity where the best long-term outcomes can be found.

In this light, in my opinion, Australia probably doesn’t need the sort of cloud computing visionary which James is discussing — cloud computing adoption in Australia will probably get there more pragmatically from now on, without this kind of leadership. I’m sure James, as the leader of Ninefold, would like everyone in Australia to sign up to the cloud hype as much as possible. But I think he is destined to be disappointed ;)

Image credit: Fred Fokkelman, royalty free


  1. I am still not sure exactly what you are asking when you say “cloud computing”. Companies offering more cloud based applications? Is there an advantage to running the application on a remote server rather than the users own machine?

    See these quotes from “Cloud computing” wiki page.

    “The term “cloud” is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on the cloud drawing used in the past to represent the telephone network”

    This is why I don’t like the use of the term “cloud”, it just means somewhere out on the internet. Is it ftp, a web server? Shrug. It’s in “the cloud”.

    If you are talking cloud computing. Why would you incure the cost unless you had to? Why run an application on your own or others servers if the processing wouldn’t stress a home system? Fair enough if it’s an app that requires work with a large database that needs to be queried.

    Or are you talking companies providing the services required? The web server on steroids so to speak, where they offer computing power as well as storage?

    I guess Delimiter is pretty light in the cloud computing needed. Mostly put webserving with the heavy cloud computing component being the comments and forums?

  2. I’d want to see some customer and user references from those who use these [so called] visionaries first.

    For example – the Cloud offering from Fujitsu is pretty woeful (lipstick on the pig – the pig being managed services).

    In the backwater which is probably best described as Australian IT industry the same shonks and cowboys who lead the outsourcing era are back in charge of the cloud era…

  3. With such a huge investment in NBN, the next 5 years will mean a major transition to Outsourced (Cloud) Services in Australia.

    Problem is apart from a few NBN Self Promotional Video’s, the marketing hype from vendors and a few associations with their hand out for government funding to promote NBN there is limited vision around what the practical and transformational value of NBN can be.

    I use Queensland as an example, our State Government still splits responsibility between 2 departments (DPW and DEEDI), with little direction or strategy.

    We are at a turning point, for our country, we can innovate or die. A visionary, not influenced by Government or Vendor Spin would be the first step in the right direction.

    Bruce Mills
    Outsourcing Council Asia Pacific.

    • Promoting the benefits of the NBN is a hard job given the wide range of knowledge of the target audience. It took me years to convince my parents they were mad paying $29.95 a month for dialup. They are now on broadband and doing things that have just transformed things for them. I know I told them about those things but until they experienced them it didn’t really hit home. My mum now gets to see her interstate grand children every week via video conference. Trying to explain what the NBN would mean for people, well, I am sure I cannot even concieve the impact and I have worked in IT for 28 years.

        • I am sure the IT departments would be pretty easy. Could you imagine showing the accountant a cloud based accounting system and explain how it’s different to the one running on his desktop? I know there must be a difference. A company I used to work for is now doing this with their package. Rather than selling them the software they pay a monthly fee to use the service. It was quite a big move for them to invest in the data centre to do this (they did their own, I guess they don’t have to now days). I guess when it comes to the accountant it’s the numbers that matter because it will all look and feel the same to him otherwise.

  4. Thanks Renai. Good to see some debate on this important topic.
    I absolutely agree that there are a number of high profile IT execs who have been “leading the charge” on cloud.
    However, the issue isn’t just about “probably getting there eventually and pragmatically” but getting there fast enough without other countries like the US and the UK (and others) getting a lead on Australia so that we lose competitiveness in an increasingly global market.
    We can discuss or debate hypothetical Gartner lifecycles but CloudFirst isn’t just about encouraging investment and uptake in cloud, but in helping to educate and encourage Government and business through positive enforcement.

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