|By Cloud Best Practices Network||
|May 12, 2014 09:00 AM EDT||
The UK’s Digital Government program is such a great leadership example, because not only are they pioneering the G-Cloud store, a service catalogue for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS suppliers, but also they are defining ‘Agile Procurement’ practices too.
Since the G-Cloud project was aligned under the Digital Services team, one key development has been that this catalogue for Cloud services has become companion to another similar supplier group, one for people skills like software development, via the Digital Services Store.
This approach makes perfect sense, because Cloud hosting isn’t used on its own. Instead it is consumed as part of an overall project that is typically driven by web site designers and software developers, so better linking the two will drive smarter projects.
Indeed the relationship is recognized as so crucial to the dynamic of enterprise innovation, that the fusion of the two is now referred to as ‘DevOps‘.
DevOps on Openstack
This approach makes perfect sense – In short you have the web site designers and application developers who create apps, and then there is hosting required to run those apps.
The Agile approach refers to one where developers are making lots of little updates to their software base frequently, rather than a small number of big changes over an infrequent period.
Cloud computing isn’t just about bigger better hosting, this transformation of software process and also software design, is as if not more important.
The first step is to recognize the process: The software developers seeking to use more Agile methods for writing and deploying software, and this highlights the relevant trends it will drive in the hosting industry.
For example OpenStack is a very popular platform choice, with a flourishing ecosystem of developers who create add-on modules, such as CloudMunch for example, one that can be used to enable the DevOps best practice called ‘Continuous Integration‘.
Thus this type of enhancement to the hosting platform will cater for this work pattern, and we’ll see this reflected in the G-Cloud store offerings as the habits become widespread.
Procurement Transformation – Government as a Platform
It’s this widespread habits part that is key, in terms of these new approaches and modern technologies actually starting to deliver what they promise, which is greatly reduced costs and increased IT efficiencies.
The challenge with that popular IT benefit message is that it focuses too much on areas of technology, such as the virtualization and managing those environments. Typically this is not where the bigger challenges lie, instead those tend to be in related but non-technical areas like procurement.
For example the core RFP process itself, for buying large-scale IT systems, is hugely monolithic in government as it is in many large enterprise organizations.
In short Agile Procurement therefore represents the same shift, ie. to enable lots of frequent, small purchases, rather than a small number of slow, very big ones.
As they describe in this procurement notice:
“Digital Services is a dynamic style framework with the specific aim of helping the public sector buy, design, build and deliver digital services using an agile approach, by procuring the appropriate people resource to deliver agile software development. “
When you then also add the requirement and process of agencies providing Open Data, so that furthermore the actual software developers who are creating these apps are actually citizens as well as government IT workers and suppliers, then we can see a budding ‘innovation ecosystem’ approach rather than heavily formalized bureaucracy.
This is also described at the big picture level as designing ‘Government as a Platform‘.
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
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