UC3 News — 27 September 2012

Following the implementation of the Hong Kong government’s first in-house private cloud platform, the Hong Kong Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) is progressing onto building the government’s first outsourced private cloud, to be rolled out in January 2013.

Called G-Cloud, this outsourced private cloud will become a much larger scale of government cloud compared to the in-house private cloud. G-Cloud will provide computing resources like servers, storage and networks. Unlike the in-house private cloud which is hosted on government premises, G-Cloud will be hosted in a third-party contractor’s datacenter, which will be dedicated to usage by 30 government bureaus and departments (B/Ds).

“When G-Cloud is up and running,” said Daniel Lai (pictured), Hong Kong’s GCIO, “the OGCIO will migrate some of its cloud-ready systems to G-Cloud, such as e-procurement, electronic information management, paperless meeting and electronic HR management.”
The planning for the G-Cloud architecture design started in 2011. To seek Legislative Council approval for a HK$242 million (US$31.2 million) capital fund in June this year, the OGCIO performed detailed cost analysis, pinpointed the likely areas of cloud adoption and identified the possible business benefits that G-Cloud can derive. “After all, cloud computing is only a [IT resources delivery] model, not an answer to everything,” said Lai as he spoke about selling the business case of G-Cloud to LegCo.

Not mandatory

As for the outsourced private cloud, Lai said the use of G-Cloud is “definitely not mandatory” for the 30 government B/Ds. “This is because cloud computing is not an answer to everything, plus there are different levels of tech maturity for different B/Ds,” said Lai. “If the B/Ds find that the cloud model fits with their respective IT strategy plans, they are encouraged to adopt G-Cloud. Nonetheless, individual government B/Ds can first test out G-Cloud, such as on one-off projects like data analysis and business intelligence, before they commit themselves to it.”

To better gauge the fitness of cloud adoption, besides arranging experience sharing and training sessions for the individual government B/Ds, OGCIO will also provide them with a cloud-readiness assessment service.

“This is because cloud computing isn’t an answer for everything. For instance, cloud computing is unsuitable for use by the police force, because by nature the police deal with so much confidential information,” said Lai. “As for the Census and Statistics Department, since they conduct population census and large scale data analysis once every four years, cloud computing will come in very useful for workloads such as this.”

Under some circumstances, OGICO will need to implement cost recovery for its G-Cloud services. “At least, we will identify which government departments use more or less of G-Cloud, and their associated costs,” Lai said. “There will be no chargeback on the B/Ds for G-Cloud for the first five years, but we’ll record their use of computing resources, such as by measuring their consumption of processing power and storage.”

No blind adoption

Lai said: “I personally support the cloud computing model. Although cloud computing is not an answer to everything, when it comes to the need for agility and fast computing resources implementation, cloud computing can achieve faster time-to-market.” 

“We should not blindly adopt cloud computing because cloud is not all-powerful. Similar to other IT trends, when certain technologies emerge and benefit organizations, we should study the possibilities of adopting them,” said Lai.

[Editor's note: According to an OGCIO spokeperson, the official name of G-Cloud is now GovCloud. OGCIO targets to start building the GovCloud in early 2013 and launch the service in the latter part of 2013.]

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