Optimising multi-cloud in a public sector environment


Photo of Jermaine Green

Jermaine Green

Senior Cloud Architect LinkedIn

Despite public sector CIOs and senior decision makers continuing to do more with less in times of economic uncertainty, technology is still pivotal to delivering policies and services – with multi-cloud scalability and flexibility fundamental to this happening efficiently. But many public sector organisations still find it difficult to develop robust strategies to optimise cloud spend and performance.

The UK public sector technology market grew 1.8% in the 2021-22 financial year, with a total spend of £20.1 billion, according to GlobalData. Despite organisations working within constrained budgets, this shows that technology is critical to tackling public services issues, including inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, maintains the analyst firm.

Local central government departments and agencies such as the Home Office and HM Revenue and Customs are still the largest single customers within the public sector. Although collectively, education, local government, and healthcare nearly match it on IT investment, according to GlobalData.

Though the market for technology across the public sector remains relatively flat, some areas benefit from significant growth. Cloud is one of them. Cloud spending grew 29% in 2021-22 from £486 million to £2.2 billion. This growth is expected to continue.

The public sector is following private enterprises in the move to multi-cloud

UK Government departments, local council CIOs, and senior executives are, in most cases, aware that one cloud can’t meet all the needs of their organisations. Multi-cloud, however, is still an ambition for most. They are still concerned about cost, complexity, compliance, and security.

A freedom of information request by Hewlett Packard in May 2021 discovered that 63% of public sector organisations do not have a dedicated cloud strategy. More than 70% of organisations’ infrastructure and 73% of data remain on premises.

Adopting multi-cloud infrastructures can enhance cost efficiency, collaboration, and security benefits for the public sector while mitigating the risk of disruption that goes with a single provider.

By deploying multi-cloud solutions, for example, organisations can reduce the cost of expensive on-site servers. They are also enhancing department efficiencies by enabling employees to share and collaborate on data in real-time.

Obviously, a move to cloud may not work for all applications, such as those built and managed internally housing highly sensitive data, for example.

With some public sector employees able to hybrid work, while others need to be in the office, multi-cloud enables organisations to centralise management systems to provide greater flexibility, scalability, and higher levels of security.

Multi-cloud is not a silver bullet to all the public sector’s woes. Nor is it a one size fits all approach. Individual public sector organisations need to put their own robust digitalisation roadmaps with multi-cloud at their core and work out time frames and what is and isn’t feasible, focusing on available budgets, compliance, and the public’s requirements near and long term.

The challenge of multi-cloud transformation in the public sector

Public sector organisations looking to expand their multi-cloud estates face various organisational and operating model challenges. Here are five tips that will help them realize the potential of multi-cloud and achieve their cloud ambitions.

1. Define a multi-cloud strategy

It is paramount that public sector organisations put together a strategy that defines business justification for multi-cloud and expected cloud adoption outcomes. This should be determined by executives and stakeholders so that they know what they are working towards and what is required.

The public sector can benefit from migrating to the cloud in several ways. Organisations can save money by moving away from legacy infrastructure and reducing the overall cost of managing and maintaining hardware on-premises. Analyse the total cost of ownership for on-premises virtual machines in the cloud, for example, as opposed to on-site servers. Cloud migration is a repeatable process, and there will be several ways of optimising costs across the environment. Migrations can start small with smaller workloads and scale to avoid any disruption.

2. Implement best practices for Landing Zones

A cloud landing zone is basically a framework for cloud adoption, allowing organisations to streamline their migration, ensuring it is secure and efficient. It will enable organisations to put in place parameters and guardrails for compliance outlining how applications and data will be utilised in a cloud estate.

When designing and deploying a landing zone, organisations should consider various aspects around cost optimsation and cost management requirements. A landing zone should deliver clear business outcomes.

It is paramount to ensure that consistent tagging is applied across cloud resources. Tracking costs via tagging makes it easier to attribute costs to specific areas of spend. Budget alerts should be set up to track spend and usage against budgets and avoid bill shock.

Alongside agile methodologies, the cloud’s collaboration benefits connect users from different departments making workflow more efficient, allowing the sharing of ideas and working effectively together. Cross-functionality also breaks down silos and allows teams to share resources.

3. Proof of concept

Developing a proof of concept (PoC) is paramount as it helps to determine how the migration will proceed by evaluating it on s small-scale application. It allows organizations to see if any refactoring needs to be done when moving to the cloud and how cost-effective the project will be. It also provides for the testing of real-world scenarios.

Cloud PoCs are a reliable way to validate a migration project and help build confidence with the IT team and other stakeholders.

4. Build an agile culture

Agile methodologies can help transform how organisations plan, operate and deliver their products and services collaboratively. Agile methods can provide a framework that changes how the public sector offers products and services.

Agile methodologies allow teams to work on projects broken down into iterations or ‘sprints.’ These repeatable, bite-size chunks make tasks easier to manage. Each sprint, when completed, takes the team closer to the project’s overall completion.

5. Why consider a Cloud Managed Service (CMS)

Cloud migrations require specialist skills to work effectively and in-depth knowledge to operate efficiently and securely. With a national cloud skills shortage, many public sector organisations haven’t the resources in-house to optimise their cloud investment.

A CMS provider can help public organisations create a multi-cloud strategy, ensure migrations run smoothly, and manage ongoing cloud infrastructure and performance. Available as partial or complete management, management responsibilities can include cloud migration, configuration, FinOps for cost optimisation, security, disaster recovery, and maintenance.

The benefits of CMS include predictable recurring monthly costs, expertise on-hand that is not available in-house, and help you work out the cloud services best suited to an organisation’s workloads.

Developing a robust strategy is essential to deliver multi-cloud business benefits, including availability, scalability, performance, and security. Understanding the cloud’s technology implications and associated challenges is critical. To find out more, click here.

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