Abby Kearns, for Cloud Foundry Foundation
The White House has ordered federal agencies to accelerate the adoption of cloud usage in 2018, and that has many federal agencies struggling with significant technical and organizational challenges in this shift. But open source cloud platforms (PaaS) can help accelerate this process and make it more manageable.
Building upon the cloud also enables governments to attract and retain digital-native talent that might otherwise shy away from government IT, with its reputation of cumbersome and lengthy development cycles and stovepiped solutions – meaning technical gains could benefit agencies in a variety of ways.
“Difficulties in agency prioritization of resources in support of IT modernization, ability to procure services quickly, and technical issues have resulted in an unwieldy and out-of-date Federal IT infrastructure incapable of operating with the agility and security that is required of a multibillion-dollar Federal IT enterprise,” notes the 2017 Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization.
These challenges, however, are not unique to the United States federal government, and are being faced and addressed by governments around the world, offering insights and lessons on how to proceed.
For example, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Estonia, Israel and others are moving forward with open cloud platforms-as-a-service (PaaS), including Cloud Foundry Application Runtime, allowing them the ability to drive innovation and enable change at a faster rate.
Leading this charge in the UK has been Liam Maxwell, National Technical Adviser to HM Government and former Government Chief Technology Officer.
“Technology moves faster than governments do, which means governments can become irrelevant when users find alternative services,” Maxwell said in a presentation at a Cloud Foundry Summit in Europe.
Maxwell set out to change this by envisioning government services designed around the needs of users. “Government needs to change to be free to keep up with digital transformation. We need to move from silos to platforms — and share technology much like sharing electricity between departments. To do this, we need to use open platforms.”
Open cloud platforms allow developers to deploy public services in their favored programming languages and frameworks. Innovation happens much more quickly when developers can make changes to apps, get fast feedback to see how those changes are working, then tweak and revise as needed. Open cloud platforms also allow innovation and work to be shared among governments and users across the internet so the wheel does not need to be recreated for every path to cloud adoption.
“Governments don’t need to compete. They can share best practices and technology. They can even share code that works well for them. At many levels, governments do much of the same work and use very similar processes. For example, issuing licenses in the UK and in Vietnam are going to be very similar processes.
Open cloud platforms allow governments to collaborate so that what works well for one can be replicated by another. This means digital transformation happens faster,” Maxwell explained.
As part of the UK government’s digital transformation, Maxwell ensured his team developed a code of practice, standardized design principles, committed to open document formats, focused on reducing friction, simplified governance, and created a digital marketplace – which opened up the supplier market to small- and medium-sized enterprises and created a $1.4B marketplace, with more than 50 percent of suppliers being small to medium enterprises.
“Open unlocks change and the dynamic force behind it is competition. True competition drives the adoption of open source,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell pointed out that in the beginning, digital transformation leaders will face tough resistance when they champion open source. “When we first began, we faced predictable objections in four areas: capability, legacy, security, and procurement. Security, especially. But cloud security is good and often more secure than on-premises or data centers,” he notes.