Longhaus takes hammer to AGIMO cloud critics


One of Australia’s top technology analyst firms has come out swinging against vendors who had criticised the Federal Government’s peak IT decision-making body for being wary about embracing cloud computing solutions and lacking strategy in the area.

Last week, ZDNet.com.au reported that the global head of CSC’s cloud business had met with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) to discuss cloud computing, but had come away from the talks with the view that the IT strategy arm’s view was that cloud was “not safe or ready for prime time”.

The news follows criticism of AGIMO’s draft whole of government IT strategic vision, released in mid-April this year. In June, CSC said the vision lacked strategy, having a “short-term focus” and Telstra noted the Government had a history of building and operating platforms internally, rather than taking a more strategic view of the evolution of the IT industry and using proven technology platforms.

However, in a blog post published over the weekend, Longhaus research director Scott Stewart backed AGIMO, pointing out that despite the ongoing push for a whole of government approach, ultimately chief information officers at each separate department would make their own decision about when to shift their processes into the cloud.

“AGIMO are there to support the CIOs with guidelines, standards and strategies and the AGIMO cloud strategy was balanced and well considered,” Stewart wrote.

“AGIMO highlighted that there is still some maturity needed before the public sector CIOs will be able to tick all the boxes. And they are right. Instead of the faultfinding commentary directed at AGIMO, a better approach would be working harder with AGIMO in establishing public sector cloud standards and a process of accreditation over the longer term. We hear that AGIMO and [the Australian Information Industry Association, which represents vendors] are working towards this, which is a positive step.”

In general, Stewart noted there was still some maturity needed in the cloud computing industry.

“Interesting to see that the marketing machines of some cloud vendors are now repeatedly using the terms “safe” and “trusted”. These marketing messages are designed to distance themselves from the string of recent cloud outages from cloud vendors such as Amazon, Ninefold, Microsoft Office365 and BPOS etc,” he wrote. “It seems to me that there is a disconnect between the marketing approach of some with the reality that comes with the ICT portfolios that CIOs are dealing with, both in the public and private sectors.”

The analyst noted that a number of factors needed to be considered when shifting workloads onto cloud computing infrastructure, and CIOs had due processes and “a lot of boxes that need to be ticked first”.

“So if the CIO needs to be aloof to make a careful and considered decision on the correct timing for cloud adoption, then aloof is a good thing and the quarterly sales targets will just have to wait,” he wrote.

I partially agree with what Stewart is saying.

It should be extremely obvious to the entire Australian technology sector right now that cloud computing has passed the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ and has now entered the ‘trough of disillusionment’ in that wonderful Gartner hype cycle which we know and love so well.

The wave of cloud computing has washed over Australia and, apart from a few early adopters, has left more infrastructure completely intact and most processes unchanged. As we’ve seen recently with CSC, vendors are now switching their cloud models to more closely align with the short-term tactical demands of end user organisations.

In this context, AGIMO’s softly, softly approach to cloud computing — largely mimicked by most of its stakeholder agencies — has looked rather visionary.

However, cloud computing is an umbrella term covering a multitude of different technologies. Right now, in Australia, the infrastructure as a service space is evolving very rapidly, and is, as Stewart says, not quite baked yet. However, the story is quite different when it comes to using software as a service, for example, and there are some very mature SaaS platforms out there which many organisations, including in sensitive sectors such as financial services, have recently adopted very quickly in targeted, turnkey rollouts.

I’m talking here about platforms such as Salesforce.com, Microsoft BPOS (now Office 365), Google Apps (particularly in smaller departments), Oracle CRM On Demand, SuccessFactors, Yammer and even home-grown tools such as Atlassian’s Jira and Confluence tools. If government departments and agencies aren’t already using these tools, they should at least be examining them — because they are low risk, and their ability to increase business agility and free up resources can be remarkable.

Moving your entire organisation “into the cloud” … well, this statement just doesn’t mean anything. Where the benefit of cloud computing is right now is in very granular, targeted deployments to solve specific business problems. And on this front, although AGIMO has published some examples in this light, I don’t think it’s doing enough to stimulate adoption.

Overall, however, I welcome Stewart’s comments. Good to see some progressive discussion rather than the usual bitching about AGIMO :)

Image credit: J. D. Hancock, Creative Commons