We’ve all heard about the acceleration of cloud adoption—forecasts have shown Australia is on track to grow 23.4% in cloud services spending from 2021 to 2022, to $16.7 billion. And while government may not be one of the most mature industries in terms of its cloud adoption journey, it’s clear to see the well-known “cloud-first” mantra has evolved into a “cloud-now” priority. In fact, the latest report from Gartner forecasts an 8.8% increase in technology spending by all levels of Australian Government over the next year.
This acceleration of digitisation in government has given government and the public sector an opportunity to test drive new cloud applications and experience the scalability and security benefits first-hand. From cloud-based ERP and financial assistance platforms to remote learning management systems, public sector organisations established transformative solutions in challenging conditions.
However, for all the good generated from this investment, challenges remain. Although COVID-19 accelerated cloud adoption, there are still many situations where a private cloud is required—hence the popularity of hybrid IT environments. However, ensuring a high-performing infrastructure is complicated, and traditional monitoring technologies may not work across these heterogeneous ecosystems. In certain situations, the speed at which some cloud applications were rolled out may also have resulted in unresolved security and compliance issues.
What can agencies do to combat these concerns? Here are four recommendations to optimise public sector hybrid cloud environments.
1. Review your approach to tooling.
When planning a cloud strategy, it’s easy to assume the right tools and technology are a cure-all for the complexities of hybrid cloud management. But not all technologies are created equal. Many are either designed for on-premises data centres or the cloud, not both.
Consequently, in a rush to build out cloud services, IT teams may have found themselves juggling between dashboards as they try to keep track and in control of what’s going on in their hybrid architecture.
This area is ripe for optimisation. Nobody has the time or skill to scrutinise multiple monitoring systems—exposing the organisation to visibility and potential security gaps. IT leaders must prioritise a plan to control the complexities of monitoring hybrid environments with an integrated, holistic view of overall health, performance, and security across the network, databases, and applications.
2. Ensure your hybrid network is optimised.
With the case made for further investment in cloud services, network connectivity and performance will be key factors in ensuring the delivery of high-quality, mission-critical services. This means addressing network latency and any other issues before they impact end users. Existing approaches to network performance monitoring may need to be expanded to handle increased cloud traffic and help prevent outages.
Software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technologies also play a role in the future of hybrid. SD-WAN can help simplify network management tasks by intelligently routing traffic around congestion. The technology also brings greater security controls to the WAN edge. This means traffic destined for the cloud can bypass the on-premises data centre (where these controls are usually applied) and transit seamlessly to the cloud without performance impact.
The automation SD-WAN brings dramatically reduces the burden on network engineers and makes it much easier to manage performance as the network perimeter expands across hybrid infrastructures.
3. Nurture skills and change mindsets.
As IT leaders are finding out, the skills involved in managing a hybrid cloud environment are different than those needed for on-premises infrastructure. The data centre IT teams know has been abstracted away. Virtualisation, containerisation, and some elements of security create a wholly unfamiliar environment that must be managed in unison with and to the same high standards as on-site assets.
Technology can help, but agencies must also identify and nurture the right skills needed to support a hybrid cloud strategy in areas such as security and application performance monitoring. DevOps teams must be integrated into the process to ensure high-performing applications from staging to production. Meanwhile, business leaders and users also have a role to play and should be educated on how a hybrid environment supports the goals of the mission and how it can be leveraged effectively and securely.
The pandemic has made the case for IT modernisation and accelerated cloud adoption, but for these services to be truly utilised by government personnel and citizens alike, they must be high-performing, easily accessible, and secure. Only with these pillars in place will the cloud show its true value and help make the case for further investment and activate new use cases for the future.