Disasters may push public sector to cloud: analyst

Tackling natural disasters here and in Australia may spur cloud migration

Natural disasters in New Zealand and Australia are likely to channel public sector ICT spending in a different direction to the rest of Asia-Pacific, says Ovum analyst Kevin Noonan.

Noonan, Ovum Australia's public-sector research director, told a breakfast event in Wellington last week that the Christchurch earthquake and Queensland floods were straining governments' budgets and driving ICT development from an "effectiveness" emphasis of meeting public need to an "efficiency" slant.

He says public-sector agencies in both countries are moving from the past few years' emphasis of "doing more with less" to "doing less with less". The former perspective tends to be a "no win" position for ICT advance, he believes, "but when government says they are going to have to cut services and start to think creatively, then there are some interesting options for IT."

Among these options is cloud computing, says Noonan's colleague Steve Hodgkinson, director of government services in the Asia-Pacific region. Cloud processing of commodity-type applications that are less specific to a particular agency will tend to reduce cost and can have a risk profile less than that of internal "shared services" strategies, which have seen some notable failures in the public sector he claims.

Major initiatives such as the New Zealand government's current infrastructure-as-a-service request for proposal will give IaaS a higher profile and reputation, and may encourage more private-sector use of the cloud, the speakers told those attending the breakfast session on "getting ahead of the IT game in 2011".

The standout performers in cloud services to date have been the telco-related companies -- Telstra in Australia and Gen-i in New Zealand, with their combination of IaaS and wide-area networking expertise, says Hodgkinson. The big international companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Verizon, HP and Unisys are "doing their business cases on where to invest around the world," and will become a force in the Australasian market.

HP has announced plans for a $60 million datacentre in the Waikato and IBM has just built an $80 million facility in Auckland. Hodgkinson did not mention Fujitsu with its just-disclosed $80 million Auckland-Wellington datacentre plan.

Fujitsu CEO Stuart Stitt says the government IaaS tender is obviously a target, but he believes there is sufficient business here even if Fujitsu does not win it.

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