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UK Government Ditches Cloud Concept, Consolidates Data Centers

Roblimo posted more than 3 years ago | from the the-cloud-is-not-always-a-good-idea dept.

Cloud 97

twoheadedboy writes "HP's UK managing director says the Government has ditched its cloud computing project. A brainchild of the Labour Government and announced last year, the G-Cloud (Government Cloud) was supposed to bring significant savings. The HP guy says the government now has other ideas about how to save money on IT."

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The cloud has always been a cloudy concept to me (1)

burisch_research (1095299) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320424)

Seems like the UK government has been building castles in the sky, maybe?

Re:The cloud has always been a cloudy concept to m (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36320452)

Wow! Really? That would be a first.

Re:The cloud has always been a cloudy concept to m (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36320468)

niggers actually inventing a technological advancement would be a first.

Re:The cloud has always been a cloudy concept to m (3, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321196)

Seems like the UK government has been building castles in the sky, maybe?

Reminds me of a Rita Rudner joke: "Neurotics build castles in the sky, psychotics live in them. My mother cleans them."

Re:The cloud has always been a cloudy concept to m (2)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322176)

We must centralize everything that is decentralized, and decentralize everything that is centralized!

And we must hire consultants to make sure the reorganization is done efficiently.

Re:The cloud has always been a cloudy concept to m (3, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321656)

A distributed, redundant system IS "the cloud".
So they probably realized they already had one.

Saving money (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36320428)

A great way to save money would be to stop cancelling projects a year after they are initiated in favour of yet another thing you'll probably ditch in a few years.

Don't be silly (2)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320550)

What would the civil servants in charge of procurement do then? They'd be out of a job and we can't have that!

Re:Don't be silly (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320764)

Well, divide them into two groups: Group 1 continues to come up with new ideas all the time, but it's now group 2's job to find out why those ideas are stupid and shouldn't be done. Keeps them busy, but avoids having to half-implement every half-baked idea.

Re:Don't be silly (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320874)

Sounds like most governments with two parties.

Re:Saving money (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321326)

The problem with governments is that they are failure based.
It is what you do wrong that gets you in trouble. vs. what you do right that gets you recognition. And combine it with politics means for any project it is operated in a method to prevent failure (dumping a project isn't failure it is avoiding failure) and there is opposition political forces trying to get the project to fail, meaning any idea no matter how good will be under a lot of pressure and its chance for success is quite limited.

Now a failure based organization isn't always bad. Think water treatment where there are layers of safeguards to prevent problems, and almost all sane political parties (Heck if I can get some rabid Tea Party members to agree that Government should control/regulate the City Water Supply that says something) do not want to mess with it so they will not try to cause failure.

However a lot of IT based jobs require a degree of failure and experimentation until they get it right. Thus creates a lot of problems. A major improvement if you get a work ethic all the way up the organization that states, even If I Disagree with the idea, once it is approved I will do my best to make it a success then you could actually get an effective government without being scary.

Cloud computing was always a vapid subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36320464)

One idea shower and the data comes back down to earth.

Re:Cloud computing was always a vapid subject (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321404)

Cloud Computing isn't always cheaper. It is a matter of size and scale. Cloud computing is best for small - mid sized organizations. Where the cost of infrastructure and keeping a server(s) to run is more expensive then a Cloud computing company to host many Uber Servers and give you a slice to use. But these companies make money off of this... Why because the cost of selling you 10% of use on their server you pay 15% (still cheaper then getting your infrastructural and keep it running successfully) However if you are getting big and you use 100% of their server infrastructure then it is clear that you should probably setup your own data center as your size and the amount you are paying will be cheaper to host it yourself.

Re:Cloud computing was always a vapid subject (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321850)

That was not the UK govt's plan, though. They already run their own datacenters, and they were planning to use scalability technologies ("cloud") to consolidate them.

Re:Cloud computing was always a vapid subject (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323030)

Even for our 20-30 person organization, it is cheaper to do everything internal rather than outsource to SalesForce. The payback period was 10-16 months. Large organizations just like it because it is all OpEx rather than a capital expenditure that gets depreciated over time. Something could be said of deployment success in terms of completing on schedule, but that is the only argument that seems to work.

What the story really means (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320490)

A bunch if Bureaucrats realized their budgets would shrink an astonishing amount if they go to the "cloud" - so they opt for "consolidation" which will never happen because everyone in charge of their little fiefdoms won't give up power (and money)

Re:What the story really means (2)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320978)

or they realized there was lots of risk with the cloud and they did not want their resources to disappear and have little way to get them back on line other than yelling at a vendor. If anything the Amazon EC2 outage showed is that you should have a backup or a local resource for when the cloud fails. If you have to do that anyway then it is not as good as people are trying to make it out to be and the same or more work.

Re:What the story really means (2)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321094)

or they realized there was lots of risk with the cloud and they did not want their resources to disappear and have little way to get them back on line other than yelling at a vendor.

Nobody realizes that yet. NOBODY. At least, nobody in a position where these decisions are made. It's a scary fact, true, but sadly true.

If anything the Amazon EC2 outage showed is that you should have a backup or a local resource for when the cloud fails. If you have to do that anyway then it is not as good as people are trying to make it out to be and the same or more work.

The problem being that the people that makes these decisions have absolutely no clue what a computer is. They don't realize that a server is basically the same thing that lies on their desktop and they watch youtube on - if a little more beefy. They don't know squat. They just know that Amazon will look good (or bad) in the press for the next election.

They don't give a rat's ass about their data because they don't have the slightest idea of how valuable they are, and don't have the slightest idea how quickly they can vanish forever. So why bother? Let's grab a bottle of Whiskey, a glass, and lie down next to the swimming pool with an iPad2 to shut our brain off. All these worries will be no more in a few minutes.

Re:What the story really means (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321276)

I thought that Amazon would be more reliable than even a system that I was maintaining myself, until that outage. They must have multiple engineers, redundant servers and connections, insane amounts of bandwidth, etc.. it's weird that it would go down at all when you have that much money and resources to throw at it, barring someone hacking the system.

Re:What the story really means (2)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321362)

Not necessarily, for a very simple reason.

The bigger a system is, the more complicated it gets, the more places there are for things to go wrong. And when they go wrong... oh boy.

It doesn't get a great deal bigger or more complicated than Amazon's EC2. Presenting an entire datacentre to the enduser as a big unified blob of computer power you can spin up virtual machines in is distinctly non-trivial.

Re:What the story really means (1)

burne (686114) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323724)

I thought that Amazon would be more reliable than even a system that I was maintaining myself, until that outage.

You've missed one detail. Amazon delivers the 'tools' (calling it hardware seems somehow wrong) to build a resiliant and scalable application. But it's up to you to build that system. And most people/companies get it wrong.

Netflix is using Amazon as well. Much of their normal operations take place in the datacenter which suffered first and most. Netflix was mostly unaffected by the outage. (http://techblog.netflix.com/2011/04/lessons-netflix-learned-from-aws-outage.html)

Re:What the story really means (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36324058)

I thought that Amazon would be more reliable than even a system that I was maintaining myself, until that outage. They must have multiple engineers, redundant servers and connections, insane amounts of bandwidth, etc.. it's weird that it would go down at all when you have that much money and resources to throw at it, barring someone hacking the system.

Of course, Amazon's cloud is more reliable than what most small companies are able to put together.

A car accident that takes out the utility pole or transformer outside of their building can result in a longer outage that what Amazon experienced. (trust me, I know - a small office complex I once worked at had the power down for 72 hours to replace a large transformer that was clipped by a piece of construction equipment, causing some spectacular sparks and blown fuses somewhere in the 10,000 volt feeder. A large part of the delay was bringing in a large crane to lift the transformer over the building since there was no usable path for a truck to drive around the building. Fortunately, I wasn't working in IT, so the only impact on me was a 3 day paid vacation while the building was dark).

Most small companies can't afford a backup generator, redundant cooling, diverse internet connections delivered over multiple physical paths, 24x7 NOC, etc.

Re:What the story really means (1)

Xibby (232218) | more than 3 years ago | (#36324160)

My understanding is the customers impacted by the Amazon outage weren't paying the higher price to have their data spread across multiple data centers. It was a decision made by Amazon's customers, and they chose to take the risk and go with the lower priced service, or their customers didn't understand the risk they were taking.

Re:What the story really means (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321570)

How many of those companies if they were to host them locally would have lost all their data without it... Many Small companies IT policies are Server under the desk, covered with dust and dirt, and used by the person sitting at the desk as their own workstation where they browse with IE 6 on questionable sites.
What Amazon did was stupid. They should have had a better backup solution. But I will keep saying what I have always said.

MAKE AND READ THE CONTRACT IF YOUR BUSINESS IMPORTANT INFORMATION GOES ON AN EXTERNAL SYSTEM!!!!

It isn't cloud computing that is the problem or it is a bad idea. It is the fact that people jump into it and don't make a formal contract to make sure they can get their data back on request or guaranteed uptime and particular punishments and compensation if they don't get it.

Re:What the story really means (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36326504)

If thats their reason, then its all FUD....
Everything is already outsourced to various providers, all they can currently do is yell at a vendor when things break. They are dependent on all manner of single source hosting providers, consultants and software developers.

Morons (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320544)

In other words, the government has no clue what it is doing, except that it has a budget it needs to spend to justify its existence.

This is why people don't have any faith on our government. They haven't even had a chance to deploy "the cloud" project fully until they change to the next great thing, which won't be fully deployed before it gets yanked for some other "new" technology fad that comes along.

The worst part, we can't fire these idiots.

Re:Morons (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320638)

The worst part, we can't fire these idiots.

Sure you can. But it will take blood.

Re:Morons (2)

Ambvai (1106941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320832)

"Out of a cannon. Into the sun."

Re:Morons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36320878)

Agent K: A *person* is smart. People are dumb, stupid, panicky animals, and you know it.

Sig correction: People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.

Re:Morons (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333848)

Reading the story, it seems that the problem was that they *did* fire the idiots. Or at least, the British people did what they were supposed to do when they're dissatisfied with things.

G-Cloud was a Labour initiative. When the Conservatives got hold of the government, and decided to implement their (disastrous) austerity program, they started cutting budgets left and right. Which is a shame, because they're cutting off funding for a program that might have brought huge efficiencies down the line.

Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320678)

An organization as big as a national government should have its own IT department. Using cloud services basically means you're outsourcing your IT to the company providing the cloud services. For a government, this is not a good idea. They store all sorts of sensitive information about their citizens, to which the cloud provider would ultimately have access (and Dropbox proves this happens regardless of what they say, as for a large part they need it to diagnose issues with their service). Mission critical applications, of which a government would have at least a few, would also have a single point of failure if hosted on a cloud provider.

Ultimately it's about short term cost savings versus long term problems. A government should be thinking long term pretty much all the time.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

mnrasul (1677458) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320744)

I agree in principal, but any savings they might gain by having their own department is easily lost by inefficiencies which inevitably creep in any government service, hence things would be run more efficiently if they used a private corporation who actually has to compete with others. just my opinion.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36320848)

The problem is that those corporations end up lobbying that very same government and don't actually end up competing in a truly free market.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322800)

The problem is that those corporations end up lobbying that very same government and don't actually end up competing in a truly free market.

The problem is that government bureaucrats are spending other people's money, so they have no incentive to make good decisions and good incentives to make bad decisions ('but we only provide crappy service because you don't give us a large enough budget, give us more money and it will all be wonderful'). Nothing will change that.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Zediker (885207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320890)

While that may be true in the short term, it doenst always work out that way. Check out the horrible stories surrounding the commercializationof the Marine's Intranet

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (2)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320896)

The government should own the infrastructure, and a private company should run it, with a clause that the private company has to turn the keys over at anytime if they feel to meet their performance targets.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321346)

the private company has to turn the keys over at anytime if they feel to meet their performance targets.

Indeed, sexual misconduct to further your career is cheating.

because that worked well with Railtrack in the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36321414)

Oh wait...

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322380)

Bingo. A unified infrastructure would make everybody able to compete. And we'd finally try that fabled capitalism :D

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322944)

feel = fail. Too early in the morning when I banging out that comment (no pun intended).

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36329390)

Thats how things start out..
Then you get corruption, which results in the performance targets being lowered to accommodate powerful vendors, and additional arbitrary requirements being added to ensure smaller vendors cannot bid for the contracts.
Private corporations by their very nature are ruthless beasts, give them any slack and they will abuse it.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321320)

I agree in principal, but any savings they might gain by having their own department is easily lost by inefficiencies which inevitably creep in any government service, hence things would be run more efficiently if they used a private corporation who actually has to compete with others. just my opinion.

That competition only lasts until the company is entrenched- that is, once they've set up infrastructure and established themselves of the gatekeeper. From that point forward it becomes more efficient to pay their rising prices than to pay the price of establishing a new infrastructure - only to go through the same thing in a couple of years with a new provider.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36322304)

I've seen my deal of privatizations: prices raise, infrastructures are optimized at the cost of the service.
Yet you are right, a private entity should do better than a bureaucracy. It doesn't because most of privatized stuff was a monopoly. You cannot easily lay lines for electricity gas or water. You cannot build a parallell highway. No competition -> privatization fail.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (2)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322968)

The UK uses plenty of private corporations who promise what they can't possibly deliver and end up costing the UK taxpayer a great deal more than an internal IT department would. Fujitsu Siemens, Capita, EDS, IBM and many others have costly failures against their names on UK government projects. The trouble is, when they're all shit, and have no incentive to improve, then the private sector might as well be the public sector.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323494)

Totally agree - with the budgets concerned, we could easily fund a development team large enough to meet the needs - and with no incentive to talk bullshit to make a sale.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36329340)

Government services may well develop inefficiencies because the people running them don't particularly care about efficiency as it doesn't affect their pay packet. But that's not to say that private companies do any better...
Sure there is more of a drive to improve efficiency, but only in so far as it increases profit. Another far more common way to increase profit is to cut corners.
Also there is not always a level of competition, if a private company can eliminate the competition then they will rapidly increase prices and reduce service quality, whereas a government service is likely to remain consistent.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (2)

Zediker (885207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320786)

Correct, the concepts of cloud computing are about removing the need to maintain personal infrastructure, platforms, or software locally, and using what has already been built. If an organization builds a "cloud" datacenter (a.k.a. private cloud [which is a horrible term]), they get none of the long term infrastructure / platform benefits and only gain some of the software benefits due to still having to maintain a workable platform on an internal infrastructure. Sure, software may be easier to build, to a degree. However, they will still need to maintain the software that makes the new infrastructure work, therefore obviating some of the benefit.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Zediker (885207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320834)

Also, when you would create one of these datacenters, you're essentially just consolidating all your datacenters anyway, so it appears they realized they wont need all the other junk anyway, and just did this instead.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321844)

When you switch to a "cloud", you consolidate management. When you consolidate data centers, you just end up with all of your duplicate machines in the same place.

A cloud might run across multiple data centers, but still only use as much hardware is needed at the time. If 50% of the cloud is unused at the time, then (less than) 50% can be shut down to cut expenses. Running jobs can be switched to underutilized machines, improving efficiency. Without a centralized management, no government agency would ever take the time to move jobs for efficiency's sake. Hell, they might not even be allowed to know what other departments are running jobs.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (4, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320888)

It's entirely possible to have an internal cloud. The Government Cloud Department could be charged with managing all processing resources, availability, data storage, etc. as needed. The road-managing people need to run a simulation for a new traffic light's effects? Ask the GCD for a half-dozen CPUs for 6 hours. The bean counters need to count many hills of beans? Ask for 1000 CPUs for 2 hours. Don't know how long something will take? Send in the job anyway, and you'll get a call when it's done. From the perspective of all the other departments, they're dealing with this nebulous system that just does what they need.

Having one single Cloud Department means idle servers can be eliminated, redundant employees can be cut, and redundant mistakes aren't as likely to be made. Yes, security's still an issue, but not something that can't be resolved with the liberal application of encryption and security checks.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320994)

...redundant employees can be cut...

Better yet, relocate redundant employees so the bureaucracy engine gets more meat fuel and stuff gets done faster.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321674)

Please do not transfer the ex-admin to work the phones at the IRS. That will not end well for anybody.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322294)

Please do not transfer the ex-admin to work the phones at the IRS. That will not end well for anybody.

I'd rather talk to an ex-systems admin than the people they have answering their phones now.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321044)

It's entirely possible to have an internal cloud

Further demonstrating just how meaningless the term "cloud computing" really is. What you described is exactly the setup my university has for the research clusters, which have been around since before "cloud" was associated with "computers."

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321632)

It's meaningless in the same way that "steam" is meaningless in "steam engine".

Back in the good ol' days, the universities had a small group of people qualified to operate the million-dollar computers. It was assumed that there would be no expensive redundancy. Now, anybody with a spare computer can set up a "server", so there's a need to distinguish centrally-managed systems as being different than the norm.

I doubt very much that all research is done on those research clusters. It's far more likely that some professor set up their own box to run processing jobs, so he wouldn't need to talk to those cluster folks. That's the kind of duplication that gets expensive for government work, so it's perfectly reasonable to cut it out.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36322218)

Cloud is a HYPE term - Only. Does it mean you can cut and paste you childrens heads all over? One company thinks so. Does it mean you can watch movies from Home computer while at the airport? Same company also thinks so. Cloud is just a way to trivialize the meaning of "System Engineering" with a puffy, friendly name. Virtualization and Clustering are the real terms.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323264)

And "desktop" is just another way of saying "icon based GUI metaphor", and "mouse" is just another name for "hand-operated top-down trackball input device".

Giving computer things fluffy consumer-friendly names is par for the course. "Cloud" rolls off the tongue (and off the TV advert) easier than "network-based distributed computing". In a few decades it will either have faded into non-existence or become an inoffensive part of the lexicon.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36321444)

"redundant employees can be cut" - then they would be redundant redundant employees. And then they could go to work for The Department of Redundancy Department.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321972)

Yeah, I don't have a problem with virtualization, but I don't think that's what this article described. I just think that they should avoid using something like, say, EC2 for important or sensitive business.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36322022)

Yes, security's still an issue, but not something that can't be resolved with the liberal application of encryption and security checks.

...wat?
encrypt what, the connection? The data "in the cloud" is always in cleartext, and you have little to no control over it.

plus When we're talking about *GOVERNMENT* data, it's better be its' own fscking cloud we're talking about, 'cause outsourcing government data to someone else is pure madness.

cloud computing is for outsourcing, not for control or security.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322870)

It would be possible to use a scheme where only encrypted data is stored in whatever database abstraction is used on the cloud side, and only store the private key necessary for decryption on a server stored at and exclusively under the control of the government, but then you're pretty much losing most of the benefits of cloud computing anyway since you have to maintain that keyserver.

Plus it probably wouldn't scale very well since you'd be doing a hell of a lot of on-the-fly encryption and decryption, which would require a fairly large amount of CPU power on the keyserver side.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323026)

Data in the cloud can be stored encrypted, and transferred to a secure location for actual processing. The storage location can be staffed by not-so-trusted folks, because they're only handling encrypted data. The encryption keys can be stored in the processing facility, right where the data's going to be used. It all falls under the management of the Government Cloud Department, who are the ones responsible for managing a high-availability cluster, and nothing else. It'll cost extra processing time, but that's a trivial problem compared to convincing government bureaucrats to give up their control over servers.

Government departments can "outsource" their processing needs to another government department. The only people I've seen expecting clouds to be outside the organization entirely are people inventing problems to complain about.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36329566)

The government are already doing outsourcing on a HUGE scale...

Cloud computing is for more efficient usage of resources, and this works best when you have a large number of users with disparate requirements and usage patterns. But there's no reason you can't build a cloud type system in your own private server room with a small number of systems and still realise some benefits from doing so.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322864)

Didn't we already come up with a name for mainframes? Like "mainframe"?

If only it were true (4, Interesting)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 3 years ago | (#36320918)

> A government should be thinking long term pretty much all the time.

So this means they should review all of their procurement policies which

  • lock them into using a single vendor, and
  • cause them to create documents in formats which only a single vendor can reliably read (and even that without any guarantee that newer versions of software from that vendor will display the document exactly like the version used to create it).

It seems to me that thinking long term should give a great advantage to the idea of using open source and a document format like ODF.

Unfortunately, there's the other side of the long term. If governments go FOSS, over the long term the politicians will get a lot less payback from lobbyists, no?

Re:If only it were true (1)

Zediker (885207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321052)

Governments can and do go open source; when they can and it makes sense. Governments cannot always go open source due to ownership, security, responsibility, reaction time, etc.

Additionally, It is very hard to push the onus of an issue onto a foundation, it is much easier however, to push it onto a controlling company.

Re:If only it were true (4, Insightful)

devent (1627873) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322410)

That doesn't make any sense at all, you just throw in some buzz-words like "ownership, security, responsibility, reaction time". You comment reads like from some marketing department of Microsoft.

Governments can do open source, and they should all the time. Because there is no sound reason against open source for governments. If anything else, open source should be the philosophy behind a democratic government, which is paid by the people, works for the people and accumulates data from the people for the people.

The problem is always the neo-liberals with their free-market dogma. Don't support local economy, but make open bidding where all international heavyweights and convicted monopolies like Microsoft can bid. Don't write software and support your own I.T. department but outsource it to some cloud.

What the government should do is write open source software, so that every department can use the software for free and have the ability to modify the software for their needs. The government should biased for local software companies and disadvantage international cooperations like Microsoft, because that would foster the local economy and create know-how. The government should have their own I.T. departments because of the sensible nature of the citizens data and national security. And last, it should use open standards where possible and create new open standards where no such standards exists, because of the importance and the need for durability of the citizens data.

Re:If only it were true (1)

Zediker (885207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323512)

Who said this has anything to do with microsoft? These are common questions when dealing with anything open source. If you dont ask them, you are an idiot, plain and simple.

Ownership: who the hell do i talk to if there is an issue?

Security: who contributed to this project? Are they friendly? can i trust them? If there is a security issue, who fixes it? (me or them)

Responsibility: who is responsible for maintaining and updating this software? Do they care about my business? Do they care about the project to keep it up to date?

Reaction Time: if i find an issue, how long does it take for it to be fixed? will they fix it, or expect me to?

Re:If only it were true (1)

devent (1627873) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323896)

But all this questions have nothing to do with whether the project is open source or not. This questions arises with every software you use.

In fact some of those questions are less risky for open source projects.
With CSS projects only the developer have the ownership, you need to trust him, he can only fix anything and can maintain the project. With an OSS project you have the choice to stay with the original developer or to find a better maintainer of the project or to do it yourself.

Re:If only it were true (1)

Zediker (885207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36329152)

What you say is absolutely true if contracts are never involved. However, almost any procurement ends with a contract between the service or commodity supplier and the government, which really becomes the main barrier to entry to OSS and makes those questions from before more sticklers than commercial flavors of doing business. In the commercial world, everything is fine and rosy with contracts, they are flexible and can be redefined easily. In the government world, not so much. USC Title 10, the FAR, among other regulations, policies, and laws define how the government may do business, and they don't always easily align with the answers to those above questions. When they do, GREAT! When they don't, well, its back to closed source whether it wants to or not, because it may pass those wickets easier.

Don't get me wrong, the government can benefit greatly from the OSS community, and i also personally believe it should consider more OSS when looking for solutions to its problems. It is just many of the public policies, laws, and regulations make it much harder to do that than John Q. Public.

Re:If only it were true (2)

devent (1627873) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322288)

I just quote some Peruvian Congressman on this issue:
http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2002-05-06-012-26-OS-SM-LL [linuxtoday.com]
"It is also necessary to make it clear that the aim of the Bill we are discussing is not directly related to the amount of direct savings that can by made by using free software in state institutions. That is in any case a marginal aggregate value, but in no way is it the chief focus of the Bill. The basic principles which inspire the Bill are linked to the basic guarantees of a state of law, such as:

Free access to public information by the citizen.
Permanence of public data.
Security of the State and citizens.

To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is indespensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider. The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free access, if necessary through the creation of compatible free software.

To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill of the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them. For this reason the State needs systems the development of which can be guaranteed due to the availability of the source code.

To guarantee national security or the security of the State, it is indispensable to be able to rely on systems without elements which allow control from a distance or the undesired transmission of information to third parties. Systems with source code freely accessible to the public are required to allow their inspection by the State itself, by the citizens, and by a large number of independent experts throughout the world. Our proposal brings further security, since the knowledge of the source code will eliminate the growing number of programs with *spy code*. "

Re:If only we realized how much FOSS would save (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36322352)

The industry is a beast, it drives policy thru special interest groups. Once we realize how much we could SAVE by leveraging FOSS, it would be all over.
Sorry Monopoly players, its time has come. Remember when Refrigerators changed the Ice-Delivery-for-refrigeration paradigm? Its baaaack in a big way.

Re:If only it were true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36323028)

There is almost no difference between "single vendor" and FOSS, which is inherently "single solution", except for the "free" part. And in the end, you get what you pay for. The ODF, being based on some randomn peoples "ideas", could be just as screwed up in the end as any Microsoft format, and possibly harder to support. Like MP3, the Microsoft formats have been "good enough" for most people, where ODF would be equvalent to AAC here.

Re:If only it were true (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 3 years ago | (#36325194)

> There is almost no difference between "single vendor" and FOSS, which is inherently "single solution",
> except for the "free" part.

You don't realize that FOSS, even if "single solution", is inherently not "single vendor" since the source is forkable (by definition)?

> And in the end, you get what you pay for.

You obviously didn't pay list price for Windows ME. Would it have worked better if you had?

I'm curious --- does your mother do all of the shopping?

> The ODF, being based on some randomn peoples "ideas", could be just as screwed up in the end
> as any Microsoft format, and possibly harder to support.

We know that ODF is more or less totally described by a standard of reasonable size, and OOXML is rather less comprehensively described by a standard of unreasonably large size (about an order of magnitude larger than ODF). And we have the source code to several programs which support ODF. Even ignoring the fact that ODF was standardized by a committee of experts and not "random people", this means your comment is silly.

> for most people

In case you didn't actually read the thread, the whole thrust of my comment was about governments, not Average Joe.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322872)

A government IT department should be a cloud service provider. They should be virtualized and SAN backed and replicated to DR sites. When an initiative requires more computing resources, they should be able to spin up a couple of VMs and present them to the team(s) that need the resources.

I know that "cloud" gets over used a lot, and the term still has some ambiguities to it. It helps if you realize that when the vendors are talking about clouds, they are talking about abstracted resource pools. Instead of buying "a server" with x procs and y GB of RAM, you are buying/renting a VM.

It is quite likely that the ambiguity in the article about whether or not the "cloud" project has been cancelled by the government has a lot to do with the definition and scope of the project. In all likelihood, HP is still going to help the UK government develop a "private cloud".

It comes down to a shift in thinking. In my environment I am dealing with an old school app developer who still thinks that he needs a physical server for every application. I had to do an end run around him and explain to others that the concept of n+1 physical boxes per application is dead. "There's this nifty thing called VMware... ooooo, aaaaahhhhhhh" The developer finally got on board with the program. Our provisioning process is more efficient too. Now instead of buying beefy servers "just in case" the application experiences growth, I spin up a minimal VM and add resources to it as necessary.

Back to your original point, the "cloud" only means outsourcing IT in the SMB market. For small businesses, it makes more sense for them to treat IT as a utility, like electricity or water. They want to be able to flip the switch and make it work. They don't want to have an electrician and a plumber on staff to maintain the building. Unless there are performance issues with the hosting environment, there is no reason that they can't use Citrix or even some sort of web based applications hosted and maintained by someone else. With a proper SLA and a redundant internet feed, they should be fine.

For the enterprise, the cloud is just an abstraction of data center resources. I think that is what Schmidt might have been saying when he said that IT people either need to get with the cloud or get run over. Because of virtualization, the old concept of buying new physical servers all the time and dividing applications across physical boxes is dying. With the exception of database servers that need dozens of cores and hundreds of gigabytes of RAM, everything else can be virtualized.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

cavebison (1107959) | more than 3 years ago | (#36328088)

It's fun watching human behaviour at work.

Only after making an enormous mistake with serious consequences does a person (or company or industry or government) choose the better - but less satisfying to immediate desires - way. The greater the immediate desire, the more risk will be accepted.

We wouldn't have so many laws and regulations if it weren't the case that human beings simply love learning things the hard way.

As an aside, given those traits, I'm sceptical about our chances of doing anything useful in time to avert catastrophic climate change. We will, once again, make a huge mistake which future generations down the track will no doubt recognise and duly regulate against.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333920)

I don't read the situation the same way. It sounds like they had an ambitious, high tech program that they thought would reap huge benefits down the line. Then they lost a chunk of their funding (a common thing in British government lately), and had to scale back the plan and only go after the lowest-hanging fruit.

Re:Cloud Services Means Outsourcing IT (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36329334)

Governments very rarely think about things long term... The UK gov has gotten themselves horrendously locked in to IE6 for instance, someone thinking long term could have easily seen that coming.

Most government IT in the UK is already outsourced, mostly to foreign companies. Their data is hosted on severs owned, produced and managed by foreign companies, sitting in data centers owned by foreign companies, running software controlled by foreign companies.

The "cloud" idea is a very good one, the idea of powering up more servers dynamically to handle load spikes, and powering hardware off during idle periods, as well as having distributed storage of data ala google so a single location failure is not a huge problem. There is no reason why the government couldn't embrace such a model, and scale it out across a large number of government departments.

Obviously being government data, you would need to ensure that any other users sharing the infrastructure were at the same clearance level.

The smart thing, would be for the government to build their own cloud architecture for hosting their own data, no third parties holding the keys.

They'll start saving money when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36320772)

...they stop allowing themselves to get milked to death by over charging contractors.

Honestly it's a farce, I've worked for the DVLA and I know just how ridiculous it all is.

Reminds me of the thin client fad (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321036)

Ah, the good old days of Slashdot in the 1990s when thin clients were the future [slashdot.org] , the desktop was dying, Java was the answer [slashdot.org] , and kernel 2.3 was finally going to bring Linux to the desktop [slashdot.org] .

Re:Reminds me of the thin client fad (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321090)

At least thin client computing is a meaningful (well, somewhat meaningful) term. "Cloud computing" seems to have no meaning whatsoever, people just use the term "cloud" to refer to whatever technology they want. Remote data storage? Cloud. Grid computing? Cloud! Batch processing? Yes, that is "cloud" too! It can even be "cloud" if you are not outsourcing anything.

Re:Reminds me of the thin client fad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36321232)

Can I outsource my cloud to the cloud?

Re:Reminds me of the thin client fad (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321274)

It can also be Cloud Computing if you have a computer that's sending another computer data! Because that data isn't on the receiving computer!

MAAAAAAGIC.

Re:Reminds me of the thin client fad (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336200)

I've been trying very hard to figure out what cloud REALLY is and why all the excitement. It appears to be mostly virtual hosting and storage rental. The big distinction seems to be that it's automated and they offer an hourly rate.

That's not to say it isn't useful, but it's hardly the new paradigm the hype machine would have us believe it is.

Re:Reminds me of the thin client fad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36321554)

As opposed to 2011, when my work colleague with a $1500 MS Windows laptop cannot even make it see the local WLAN SSIDs to which my little Linux netbook can connect, and no amount of registry hacking or driver installation will fix his problem.

One of these operating systems is ready for the desktop...

Re:Reminds me of the thin client fad (1)

jmkaza (173878) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322696)

In completely unrelated news, Chromium laptops start shipping next week [engadget.com] .

Re:Reminds me of the thin client fad (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323016)

A lot of places do use thin clients, Java is used all over the place, and oh well two out of three isn't bad.

The right tool for the right job (1)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321134)

Cloud computing makes sense when an organisation is not big enough to justify having it's own datacenter(s) with dedicate personel and procurement and/or has wildly variable computer processing needs.

In that situation, by using cloud computing the organisation will save some money because it shares in the benefits that the cloud computing provider has from economies of scale.

However, if an organisation has big enough, reasonably stable computing power needs, it should already benefit from economies of scale (by having their own datacenters), in which case going for cloud computing would be more expensive (since it would then be sharing the savings from economies of scale with the cloud computing provider instead of capturing all of those savings)

So, for example, while it might make sense for the UK Census (which happens every 10 years) to rent computing power for number-crunching, it makes no sense for the HMRC (tax department) to do so.

This doesn't even go into the issues of vendor lock-in, data protection and increased reliance on external networking links.

Re:The right tool for the right job (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36329674)

Cloud computing makes a lot of sense when you have your own dc, there is no reason you would need to outsource it to a third party provider...

An organisation like HMRC doesn't require the same resources all year round, immediately before the deadline for filing tax returns they have a significant increase in load, plus they process all the tax data in bulk.

It actually makes sense for the government to build their own cloud infrastructure, and share it out across multiple departments, but government has never really been big on efficiency.

Nice of HP to Tell Us (1)

segedunum (883035) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321178)

It's nice of HP to tell us what government policy is...... I would imagine HP were a little scared that the government would get off the hardware upgrade treadmill a little too much if did too much cloud computing.

thin air (1)

Bent Spoke (972429) | more than 3 years ago | (#36321374)

Maybe they didn't want to be accused of having their heads stuck in the clouds.

It can still be a cloud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36321514)

It can still be a cloud, its just that that cloud is owned by the government. The datacenter can be a 'local cloud' with all of the benefits of a cloud, while having all data stored in a government datacenter (you know where your data is, you know how secure the site is, you get what you pay for, and rolling security/data updates is all in one place). You could even use google apps on local machines to create documents, just redirect the save to the government datacenter. Say, doesn't this 'apps on the server, not on the client' stuff look a whole lot like mainframes pushing to really really thin clients (ok, dumb terminals), in the 1950's?

another bogus headline (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322378)

shouldn't submitters RTFA?

"Any inference that Government has ditched the cloud computing programme is wrong," the spokesperson said.

See the rest of the quote .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36322470)

'UPDATED A Cabinet Office spokesperson has responded to Wilson's comments, telling IT PRO the Government was committed to cloud computing, but without mentioning the 'G-Cloud' title specifically`.

"Any inference that Government has ‘ditched’ the cloud computing programme is wrong," the spokesperson said.

'Despite assurances the Government was taking cloud seriously, there was no mention of the G-Cloud initiative. The spokesperson said the Government was committed to cloud computing and delivery of the "next version" of the its cloud strategy`.

"The Cabinet Office had not responded to a request for clarification over whether "the cloud programme" was in fact the G-Cloud project outlined by Labour last year, or a different initiative altogether when we posted this update".

Am I missing something? (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322770)

From what I gather - the cloud is generally thought of as being a "not so good thing" due to privacy concerns with hosted data. The upside is supposedly decent uptime due to its distributed nature (unless you're Amazon last month).

And consolidating a data center is a "not so good thing" due to...well, being consolidated. "One disaster to ruin them all" as it were. The upside is potentially having less overhead costs with your operations.

So what I don't get - why not just turn their distributed data centers into a gov-operated "cloud"? Sure you wont get lesser costs due to still requiring the same man power but you do get the redundant and geographically independent nature of the cloud system instead of 30 different systems all over the damned place?

Lastly - am I the only one not impressed with this huge push for moving every damned thing to "The Cloud"? Seems like we're adding another layer of bureaucratic complexity by requiring that you work with yet another outside vendor for your services.

Re:Am I missing something? (2)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323102)

why not just turn their distributed data centers into a gov-operated "cloud"?

Because UK governments of both Labour and Conservative have a long history of handing over large sums of money to incompetent corporations to create nonsensical spaghetti out of their IT requirements. That will not stop until people that know something about IT are in charge of the purchasing, or in other words, never.

uk govt can't do IT projects (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323848)

More or less all major UK government IT projects start as the baby of some politician who's idea of getting things done is to demand it, shove it through then hope it mostly just comes together in the end.

Obviously, this doesn't work for a major IT project which really does have to be properly specced from the beginning. It then fails for all the predictable reasons, but the politician will not abandon it as it would be an admission of failure. There's less fuss to waste another (and another) £20m than confess to having already wasted £100m so it drags on until a new party is elected, which then dumps any progress, pays off the contractor and claims that lessons have been learned.

At which point begins an all-new clusterfuck with all the same failures.

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