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Legacy lock-in and lack of skills hamper public sector cloud adoption

Migrating from legacy lock-in and the ability to manage workloads in cloud infrastructure are among the major challenges that are slowing down public sector cloud adoption

Less than one-third (30%) of NHS trusts surveyed and less than two-thirds (61%) of central government departments have adopted any level of public cloud in their organisation, according to a Freedom of Information request from IT management company SolarWinds. 

The firm sent FOI requests to more than 300 public sector organisations across the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and central government. 

Few public sector organisations have plans to migrate everything to the cloud – that was the view voiced by 41% of central government respondents and 79% of NHS respondents. 

The study found that legacy technology and supplier lock-in are the main obstacles to public cloud adoption in central government, according to half (50%) of respondents. 

Paul Parker, chief technologist, federal and national government at SolarWinds, said: “People like consistency. Disruption is difficulty, but in IT, change happens quickly.”

SolarWinds identified a lack of cloud skills in the public sector, particularly around the ability to determine suitable workloads for the cloud (49%). 

Lack of control of cloud performance (47%) and protecting and securing the cloud (45%) were also seen as problem areas. 

Parker said cloud computing changes the role of traditional IT. “In the past, you were a desktop admin or a server admin,” he said. “Now you need to be multi-skilled.”

There is a sense, at least in business, that cloud computing is invariably the right choice. But in Parker’s experience, use of the cloud depends on the nature of the workload, and this may be why the public sector is slower to adopt cloud technologies. 

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The study found that just under one in five NHS trusts and central government organisations – 17% and 18%, respectively – expect to see any return on investment (ROI) from public cloud adoption. 

Parker said: “People tend to think they need to go to the cloud. But having looked at it from an enterprise perspective, at the end of the day, the goal isn’t to provide an IT service – they need the most cost-effective, secure solution.”

He added: “The public sector needs tools that can combine the monitoring and management of on-premise and cloud infrastructure, including legacy technology, in a way that clearly demonstrates system performance and ROI potential. Without this, it will be near impossible to achieve the cost-efficiency and data fluidity that the government is aiming for with the ‘cloud first’ policy.” 

Asked about the challenge of migrating from legacy technology, Parker, said organisations can be risk-adverse. “Supplier lock-in is self-imposed,” he said. “When you have migrated from on-premise, what does that path look like? Occasionally, you do need to take the risk. There is no one answer. No sooner have you established a policy, you need an exception.” 

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