Getting beyond the cloud hype: A great interview with DFAT’s CIO


blog In his twenties, you may find it hard to believe (cough) that your humble writer was something of an idealist, taking a black and white view to every issue and always believing that there was one side of every argument that was “right”, with the other side being “wrong”. Comes, no doubt, of reading too many awesome fantasy novels. Of course, many of us change as we get older, and start taking a more nuanced view of the world. Most things, it turns out, aren’t black and white at all — they only appeared to be.

This is why we really enjoyed this interview which ZDNet has published with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade CIO Tuan Dao. As Dao points out (we recommend you click here for the full article), his department makes extensive use of cloud computing-style technologies, he still remains cynical about buying into its hype. Dao says:

“I am a firm believer in the capabilities that cloud computing can offer, but hype is what I have a problem with. I think industry and parts of government have been overzealous in thinking it is the answer to everything, when in reality, the issues [around data security and privacy] we have been trying to deal with over the last seven years have not been dealt with,” he said.

Your writer has been making this argument, and similar arguments, for some time. The reality is that “cloud computing” or “not cloud computing” is a false dichotomy. Virtually every Australian organisation of any size is using something which could be broadly classed as “cloud”, whether it’s public cloud such as Amazon Web Services for their website, for their CRM or even private cloud features such as per-department virtual server billing internally. But virtually every Australian organisation of any size is also using traditional IT platforms of some kind.

To say people should follow one or the other paradigm exclusively is just a nonsense: Sensible technologists will use the best technology for every job, regardless of the current level of hype around it. As Gartner has long told us, hype about any technology will dissipate eventually, and be replaced with something much more productive. The trick is to make use of the right tools for the right situation. The meta-discussion about what it all means is interesting; but it’s not always functional.


  1. Bingo. Totally agree. I get so sick of the bandwagon jumpers.

    In some situations the cloud simply doesn’t make sense. In others its a godsend. In all situations you need to look at it rationally and make a decision based on the benefits vs risk your organisation will receive.

  2. Hmmm … yes well you can run this argument about any innovation … there are always a range of degrees of enthusiasm. Toad of Toad Hall: Yay, the shiny new thing! Eyore: Oh, dear … nuthin new here, seen it before … didn’t work last time won’t work this time. Chicken Little: The sky is falling!

    The thing is to focus, in my humble opinion, not on the technologies of cloud computing (ho hum … these are just a logical development of hardware and software) but on the evolution towards cloud services as large scale shared services that actually work … and will work better over time.

    If this is so, then the key thing to understand is the evolution of the underlying model of how organizations source ICT-enabled capabilities to enable innovation. Ownership of assets and the staff to care and feed them used to be a source of competitive advantage and a way to manage risk. Many organizations, however, are discovering that they are incapable of competently, securely and sustainably operating ICT assets due to budget and skill constraints … so cloud services are a useful and relevant innovation. Agile thinking + Cloud Services = Innovation and Productivity.

  3. Absolutely. One of my problems with IT marketing is that it tends to paint a component of the solution as the whole solution itself. “Cloud” is one such generalisation.

    I think what is missing from many conversations is that a blanket term like “cloud” doesn’t actually define, for example, the difference between providing a service that is application based (like software as a service) and where that service lives (Infrastructure as a service). If you ask a layperson, “cloud” could easily describe either of the above and probably a few other models too, which is not true thanks to different costs of operating. Apologies for using buzzwords to describe a buzzword.

    Besides, there is no point having a cloud of any sort if you don’t have the operational processes to support it through automation, standardisation, appropriate service levels etc.. but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

    Anyway, my rant over :) The TLDR version is “I agree with that guy.”

    Renai, not being able to copy text on the page affects my tweeting workflow of copying text and using Buffer to tweet selected text. Not something I do often but still nice to have that option. Just my 2c!

    • Hey Phoebe … the key thought bubble I think is to ban the use of the single word “cloud”. It is lazy and unhelpful in any context. “Cloud” suggests vendor hype and marketing fluff.

      “Cloud technologies” … sure … I get that … virtualization, automation, SOA, self service portals, usage-based-charging etc. Great stuff if you have the money to buy it and process discipline and skills to run it.

      “Cloud services” … sure … I get that … services provided by a counterparty using cloud technologies to boost innovation and productivity … and reduce costs. Excellent. “Cloudy is as cloudy does” … AWS has reduced its unit process over 30 times in the past few years while also expanding the range and quality of its services.

      We can judge the quality and trustworthiness of cloud services by the usual techniques of vendor evaluation and putting them to the test. This is not hype this is reality.

      The key difference with proven, enterprise-grade, cloud services is that – by definition – they already exist as scalable operational services. The decision is whether or not to become a customer rather than will it work. Of course, however, not all cloud services are equal … and not all applications and workloads are appropriate for cloud services delivery … hence caveat emptor still applies.

      • “unit process”? I think I meant “unit prices” but my fingers weren’t cooperating …

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