Hybrid cloud in Australian government removes supplier lock-in

Australian public sector could take the hybrid approach to cloud computing as government’s digital transformation strategy moves ahead

Macquarie Government, which specialises in cloud for Australia’s public sector, has entered into an exclusive partnership with hybrid cloud specialist Mesosphere in what it claims is a bid to reduce the risk to government of public cloud supplier lock-in.

The Australian government’s digital transformation strategy, which has been mapped out to 2025, has cloud playing an increasingly important role, prized for its ability to boost the security and reliability of citizen-facing services.

But Macquarie says it is concerned there is a risk that agencies will transfer workloads to public clouds and then find themselves chained to them because of the difficulty of transitioning to other platforms.

Rival cloud companies were not keen to buy into a Macquarie-initiated debate about cloud lock-in when quizzed by Computer Weekly, but it is clear there is a land-grab under way as cloud suppliers scurry to win new public sector business. A handful of clouds have been granted “protected” status by the Australian Signals Directorate, greenlighting their use for data to classified level.

Currently there are five cloud suppliers rated to this level – Dimension Data, Macquarie Government, Microsoft, Sliced Tech and Vault Systems. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has signalled that it is working with ASD to secure protected status.

However, it is unlikely that government agencies will transition all their workloads to a single supplier. One benefit of hybrid cloud is that it allows agencies to retain a degree of competitive tension between cloud providers to ensure they get the best value for money, and also retain the ability to move workloads to different clouds depending on their specific requirements.

Mesosphere’s DC/OS, now being sold though Macquarie Government, has been designed as a data-as-a-platform service that can run across multiple clouds, allowing hybrid cloud solutions to be deployed.

Macquarie is making big claims for the technology, promising that it could “reduce spending on public cloud by up to 30%, cut project application development lifecycles by almost half, and accelerate time to value for new digital initiatives”.

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But it will have competition, as Cloudera has also previewed a Kubernetes-based system in Australia that is designed to allow rapid distributed provisioning across on-premise, public cloud and hybrid environments. A pre-release version of the platform is available on application.

According to Gary Marshall, senior product manager for cloud at Macquarie Government, DC/OS acts “like an overlay to the cloud environment and provides the ability for a government agency technology group to break an application into smaller parts”, and then locate those workloads on the most appropriate cloud.

Microservices and container technologies such as Kubernetes do the same – but, says Marshall, IT departments still have to wrangle about issues such as networking and security, while Mesosphere’s platform has all of that built in.

Cloudera claims that its offering comes with “all the built-in security, governance and management capabilities that our customers require”.

Macquarie Government has provided Mesosphere with a test facility and has completed proof-of-concept projects in Macquarie’s local datacentres. The company said it had tested the system with a number of federal government departments, but declined to name them.

Marshall said the solution would enable agencies to carve up their data and workloads – for example, using clouds rated to protected level for classified information storage and processing – while customer-facing websites or test and development could be handled on other clouds.

He pointed out that the Mesosphere platform’s roots lay in the open source Apache Mesos, which he said was similar to Kubernetes in that it provides a “bare- boned approach to modularisation”. Mesosphere takes that further by handling all the complexity around networking and security, he added.

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