National cloud approach #2: Roll your own

03 July 2013 | Dan Mannion, Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

Back in May, I introduced you to Three Approaches to National Cloud Strategy that I see global governments using to build national clouds. Last month, I explored the first approach—Government-Sponsored National Clouds—in “The What, Why, and How of Government-Sponsored National Clouds.” This month I’ll focus on the second approach: Government as Service Provider, and explain why governments choose it and how they implement it. 

What it is

The Government as Service Provider strategy is used by 30 percent of central governments to build their national clouds. I generally see this strategy in emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Because governments in these markets don’t typically have access to private local IT firms with the capabilities needed to deploy a national cloud, governments often step up and become their own service providers.

Why choose it

Governments select this approach for three reasons:

DATA PRIVACY, SECURITY, AND SOVEREIGNTY. Concerns about sensitive data drive these governments’ decisions just as they do in in the Government-Sponsored National Clouds approach. In this case, however, the government decides to become the service provider because it is best equipped to meet its own data privacy requirements.

LOCAL IT INDUSTRY MATURITY. While they want to support the local IT industry and privatize the national cloud, these governments don’t see the needed maturity in-country. Out of necessity, they choose to centralize their IT assets and become the national service provider.

GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS. Because of information and communications technology, or ICT, governments are more connected and more competitive than they have ever been. They know that if they don’t make investments in things like the national cloud—even if they have to become the service providers themselves—their countries will fall behind in global competitiveness. 

How to implement it

To create a national cloud in this way, several prerequisites must be in place:

SELF-ASSESSMENT.  First, national governments must inventory and assess—often with help—their in-house skillset, technology infrastructure, and IT assets. That way, they can decide which assets they’re going to rehost, refactor, rebuild, retire, or replace to deploy a centralized cloud environment.

CENTRAL PROCUREMENT AGENCY. Governments that centralize IT also have to centralize budgeting and procurement—or they’ll fail. A central procurement agency gives them the authority to:

  • Mandate the use of the national cloud over time, so they don’t build something that doesn’t get used.
  • Negotiate better prices for commodity services like databases and infrastructure.
  • Dictate when and how the budget gets spent.

GOVERNMENT MANDATE. In lieu of a central procurement agency, governments choosing this strategy need some kind of government-determined mandate. This mandate should state their intention to: 

  • Move toward providing a national cloud.
  • Either form a central agency or refactor, adjusting how the budget is allocated and starting to pull it into a central mechanism.

With all of this taken into account, it’s incredibly important to pull in a high-level service provider as an expert. Ideally, this is an expert with experience implementing complex projects, and the ability to conduct a full assessment, understand budget constraints, and create a plan that generates immediate savings from a national cloud. If you’re going down the Government as Service Provider path, you may be tempted to bring in local vendors to do this. It’s better to wait until your plan is in place, and then use locals to execute that plan.

Next month, we’ll talk about the Government Procurement Framework, the third and final approach.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Or e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Dan Mannion
Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

About the Author

Dan Mannion | Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

Dan Mannion leads Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector cloud sales business, delivering the most innovative solutions to government, health, and education customers around the globe. Read more