Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Data Centre as a Service

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), has issued a "Data Centre as a Service Discussion Paper" and invited industry comment. The Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS) facility would provide a shared data centre for smaller agencies (5o spend less than $2M a year on ICT). It is planned to have the service available in the second half of 2011, so this will have to be an existing data centre, not a new building.

As well as the idea of DCaaS, which is included in the "Australian Government Data Centre Strategy 2010‑2025", the way comment from industry is invited is of interest. As well as confidential comments by email, industry is invited to post to the AGIMO blog. There is no separate "paper" and "questionnaire" provided (no use of PDF). The paper is published as a blog entry with space to type answers to questions included.

When at the Commonwealth Schools Commission I programmed a shared mainframe computer system provided by Special Minister of State. In the main this worked well. There were some problems because SMOS was another government agency and so there was no way to legally enforce a service agreement, but if you have to take your supplier to court, you have failed.

My suggestion would be for AGIMO to tender for a basic hosting service, with add-ons as options. Later consider a cloud service. It should be noted that use of shared web based applications could greatly reduce the amount of computing equipment required and so the size of the data centre needed. My experience suggests this would reduce equipment requirements by a factor of 100, through more efficient software, more efficient data storage and sharing the hardware. In place of a data centre the size of a football field, one the size of a traditional Australian suburban quarter-acre block of land would be sufficient.

Here are my answers to the questions asked:

Question 1 of 5: Is this scope realistic and will it achieve worthwhile results? Should the scope of DCaaS include applications, and if so, which ones?

The scope is realistic. However, the short time-frame will exclude new builds.The DCaaS should exclude applications, which could be the subject of a separate process, as it raises many more issues.

Question 2 of 5: Are there any other suggestions that you think should be included?

The service should provide for at least two physical locations more than 300 km apart, to allow for backup.

Question 3 of 5: Why would one of these options be better than any other? What option would you propose?

Basic hosting would be the most suitable place to start, as it is the easiest.

Disaster Recovery Hosting & Services should be provided primarily by having at least two sites.

Full Outsourced Services, Full Managed Services should be separate services, available as an option through separate contracts not necessarily via the data centre provider.

Scalable ICT Delivery (Cloud) should be considered separately. The software issues are considerable. AGIMO should consider a suite of shared web based applications for smaller agencies.

Question 4 of 5: If presented to the market, which of the offerings listed above might your organisation bid for?
  1. a) Hosting
  2. b) Disaster Recovery Hosting & Services
  3. c) Full Outsourced Services
  4. d) Full Managed Services
  5. e) Scalable ICT Delivery
AGIMO might be surprised by the large number of organisations which can provide these services. Even scalable ICT delivery is now something available using free open source software within the capabilities of the average university ICT graduate.

Question 5 of 5: What factors do you sees as leading to success or failure in the provision of DCaaS to Government. This may include contract terms, service level agreements, data security and mobility, intellectual property or data ownership.

Trying to provide more than basic hosting would make the project very complex and likely to fail. Better to start simple. It is suggested that basic hosting with at least two locations for disaster recovery be provided.

It is suggested that
Full Outsourced Services and Full Managed Services be considered later as options. However, for smaller agencies it might be feasible to then step directly to a cloud based service, providing shared web based applications for agencies. AGIMO could provide some basic services for free, such as an office application suite, a social networking and email service for all public servants, and then offer additional services, such as HR, finance and recruitment management, as an optional extra paid for by corporate credit card.

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