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Government Cloud: Challenges for cloud providers

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Governments are increasingly interested in cloud-based services because of the compelling economical, technological, operational and scalable advantages cloud offers. In the adopted model, a nodal agency works as contracting authority and other affiliated departments subscribe to cloud service sourced from the cloud vendors. Cloud service providers are facing enormous challenges satisfying government agencies’ requirements on security, personal and contract issues.  Some of these issues service providers are facing today are highlighted below along with the approach a service provider can adopt to satisfy government agencies’ requirements.

Data residency:

Many government IT policies mandate that data should reside within geographic boundaries of a country. In some cases this extends to metadata and logs generated in the cloud system, which necessitate even the management stack of the cloud should be locally deployed. Many countries’ current government cloud requirements are not large enough to be able to justify the cost of a separate management stack, thus making it economically unviable. There are also restrictions on who can be neighbors on the shared cloud.

The problem here is to reach economy of scale. A scalable architecture approach to building cloud and using same cloud management stack for non-government workloads from the same country should help with the problem.

Service delivery:

Government agencies also demand that service operations should be performed from within the country, from the friendly countries or, at least, not from the countries on the list.  Such restrictions limit use of global delivery capabilities of cloud service provider.

It may help categorizing different tasks. Depending on criticalities, some of the tasks may be performed from global delivery centers and some from local or friendly countries.

Pricing and assuming risk

In many situations, government does work as CSP2 (the cloud service provider’s provider) for its different agencies.  While it plays that role but does not like to invest in CAPEX for the cloud, it asks bidders to invest and assume the risk of low business volumes for private clouds.

In such cases, a highly scalable approach to building clouds should be adopted. Negotiation with governments may allow sharing the same cloud with local businesses.  Cloud service providers should leverage the same infrastructure as a service (IaaS) to offer platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and business process as a service (BPaaS) so that enough business is available from start.

Credibility of international player with the government

Many governments do not feel comfortable in handing over IT operations to international cloud service providers. It becomes necessary to partner with local business. It is also important choose the right partner.

Local partners can provide a better understanding of the local IT market and buyers. Local telecom companies may be a better choice as they can augment solutions with their network reach, billing and payment system and datacenter space, which is quite essential for many such bids.

Each business brings new challenges, and so do government cloud opportunities. It is essential to win over these challenges to truly cater to customer needs. These challenges can be addressed by the right architecture model, innovative delivery and business approaches.

There might be other peculiar challenges you may have encountered while working with government clients. If so, please share in comments below!

More information on IBM’s government cloud offerings can be accessed at following links:

To learn more about the role open cloud will play in transforming government, join IBM for the Federal Cloud Innovation Forum on October 3, 2013 in Washington, D.C. at the Willard Hotel.

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