news The Tasmanian Government has gone to market for an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or private cloud solution that can be used across its operations, telling potential suppliers that any supplied option must be located in the state and that it envisages transitioning most of its services to the environment in the long-term.
In tender documents released over the past week, the state’s TMD division, which manages its whole of government telecommunications needs, noted that the state government’s ICT strategy, which was endorsed by its Cabinet in December 2011, stipulated that by 2017, “all common commodity ICT services will be consolidated and provided as a service to agencies”.
As a consequence of this, TMD wrote in its new tender documents, the state was planning to issue two new panel contracts — one for infrastructure hosting services, which was to be fairly similar to its existing purchasing structure for such services, and the second — the subject of the current tendering iniative, to cover IaaS, plus some higher level managed services.
TMD wrote: “The Government’s vision is for this RFT to result in a hosted private cloud solution providing Infrastructure as a Service server and storage solutions to agencies and other eligible customers. Infrastructure will be owned and managed by the supplier(s) and located in secure and robust, Tasmanian based, NTII data centre facilities. Customers will be able to purchase on a service basis (ie. without large capital outlays).”
It added that the IaaS services provided should adhere to the following standard definition: “A service model in which the Customer can provision processing, storage, networks and other fundamental computing resources so that they are able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying infrastructure but has control over operating systems, how storage is allocated, deployed applications, and possibly limited control of selected networking components (e.g. host firewalls).”
The state is seeking several major types of services as part of the tendering initiative, ranging from virtualised server environments initially running Windows Server and Linux (Red Hat, Debian, Ubuntu and CentOS) and potentially Solaris, as well as storage as a service in a range of tiers. Tasmania noted that all services should be provided through virtualised infrastructure, although there may be some requirement for dedicated infrastructure in some cases. Backup, business continuity and disaster recovery services ae also to be offered, and some higher level managed services are also of interest — such as managed operating systems, database management, platform/application management and support and so on.
It also noted that it prefers that the infrastructure be located in infrastructure hosting facilities covered under its Networking Tasmania II contract — primarily held by Telstra, although others such as iiNet and Tasmanian utility Aurora also provide some services — although the state said that it was open to using other facilities.
And TMD was also concerned about the tenanting of the infrastructure, writing: “Preference is for infrastructure to be dedicated to Government and other Eligible Customers. Where infrastructure is utilised for the provision of services to other customers the Tenderer must clearly detail how the security and integrity of Government services, systems and data will be maintained.”
In total, the tender documents noted that Tasmania expected that its main agencies could eventually use as many as 2,500 virtual servers as part of the IaaS deployment, hosted on some 600 physical services, not counting local school file/print servers, which could account for another 200-250 servers. Some 1900 terabytes of storage could be needed.
“Of this volume, agencies have indicated that roughly 400 servers, and associated storage, would be candidates for moving to an IaaS service in the next 2 years,” the tender documents stated. “It is expected that this requirement would ramp up over time as hardware (some of which has only just been renewed) reaches the end of its lifecycle and as the whole of government strategy in this area is developed.”
The news of Tasmania’s major private cloud push comes as state governments around Australia are increasingly moving to adopt cloud computing services. In May, for example, several major New South Wales Government agencies, the Department of Trade and Investment and Transport for NSW unveiled major and wide-ranging plans to imminently purchase Software as a Service-style IT solutions, detailing the new interest in the cloud computing paradigm through tender initiatives kicked off at the time. NSW is also interested in creating its own private cloud solution, similar to the way Tasmania is.
The Queensland Government has also publicly discussed the possibility of using cloud computing services to fix its whole of government email woes, and even the Federal Government is getting into the act, with the Australian Government Information Management Office recently conducting a great deal of work in the area.
There’s two things I want to say here. Firstly, and most obviously, this is yet another example where an Australian Government is pushing heavily into the cloud. We’ve recently been discussing the fact that cloud computing is now mainstream in the financial services sector in Australia, and all indications are that the public sector is next.
However, the second point I want to make is to question whether what the Tasmanian Government is doing can even really be described as cloud computing.
Think about it for a while. Tasmania wants its agencies to buy access to virtualised servers and storage hosted in a specific set of datacentres it already has access to as part of its major telecommunications contract. It stipulated those datacentres have to be in Tasmania (not exactly the most cost-efficient solution!). It stipulated that its IaaS services very likely will only be single-tenanted in that the Tasmanian Government will be the only player accessing them (although multiple agencies obviously will).
It also stipulated that telecommunications links to those services must be through its existing contracts, and it even went so far as to state that it may need dedicated physical servers (how is that cloud???) and higher level managed services.
To me this doesn’t scream “cloud”. It screams “advanced virtualisation” of services the Tasmanian Government already has access to. It screams “consolidation” of resources into a smaller number of datacentres. It screams “centralised purchasing” and it screams “managed services”. But in no way that it really suggest cloud computing.
Cloud computing is about giving suppliers more control over all the lesser details of where the actual IT infrastructure you’re using is, and how the underlying platforms work. The customer doesn’t choose how services are provided — they just choose what they buy. But in this case, the Tasmanian Government isn’t giving suppliers any real choice about how they provide services. Almost definitely this contract will end up with the state’s existing major telecommunications supplier — Telstra — and the major difference in how Tasmanian agencies purchase services will be the fact that they are all purchasing services from the same place and aren’t responsible for managing their physical servers or storage any more.
As far as I can see, that’s about it — and that doesn’t really fit traditional definitions of cloud computing, to my mind.