A new joint cloud computing initiative called Cloud4Gov has been announced by the Government and EMC, with support from Cisco, VMware, VCE and Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland, that will create a cloud innovation centre that will enable the development and testing of new applications and services for government.
The cloud innovation centre will have nodes in EMC's Centre of Excellence and on government networks that will allow indigenous small and medium enterprises (SME) and multinational corporations to develop and demonstrate applications to the public service. As the centre provides public sector departments and agencies with a platform to trial cloud solutions, it will also allow for such solutions to be productised and sold to other governments.
With the aim to promote Ireland as a "leader in innovation, committed to driving the smart economy," it is hoped that the initiative will "stimulate entrepreneurship, growth and jobs by reducing start-up and operating IT costs for SMEs focused on public sector," said the launch statement. Furthermore, the centres will "enable SMEs to compete for Government services contracts previously out of reach due to high costs in the development and sales process."
Speaking at the launch in the Science Gallery in Dublin, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resource, Pat Rabbitte TD, said that the two test bed centres are the "first of their kind in the world" and would "examine technically challenging areas," for government. The minister described the initiative as a strategic collaboration between EMC and the Irish Government" and an "opportunity for the IDA to demonstrate Ireland as a location of choice for investment."
"We are already leading the way in global cloud computing investment as evidenced by recent investments by global leaders who are making Ireland the centre for their cloud computing strategies," said the minister. "We intend to bring forward a government cloud strategy," he added, underlining the Government's commitment to cloud computing.
Jason Ward, country manager for EMC Ireland said that the cloud computing initiative would allow smaller companies and government departments to engage fully in what had been "a process that has been cost prohibitive" on what will be a "world class private cloud infrastructure."
Ward emphasised the roll of EMC's technology partners in the intitiative, namely VMware, Cisco and VCE, and that through cloud computing, "IT and the business user community are finally speaking the same language." The services enabled by this cloud computing initiative "bring together siloed data between departments" in government, "turning data into knowledge" in an "open source development environment," said Ward.
"Cloud4Gov is aligned with the Programme for Government initiative to deliver value through cloud computing. The Innovation Taskforce Report 2010 envisioned flagship projects as a model for driving efficiencies and benefits to the wider economy. Cloud4Gov can deliver on this objective immediately," said Ward.
"I am very proud that, in partnership with the Irish government, EMC is announcing this world-leading initiative," said Jack Mollen, executive vice president, Human Resources, EMC's. "It will put Ireland on the world stage in respect of cloud and big data-the biggest agenda items in the IT industry today."
When questioned about which services in government might lend themselves to the cloud model, Minister Rabbitte said that within the next four to six weeks, there will be a report on the issue which will highlight the services that will be recommended for cloud computing.
With regard to the possibility of legislation being a barrier to more effective public services through unifying the data behind core services such as revenue, social protection and healthcare, Minister Rabbitte said "if the only impediment" to such services "is refurbishment of legislation, then we will do that." Though, the minister added, any such efforts would be mindful of data protection issues.
The issue of previous public sector IT project failures was the basis of a question for the minister, and systemic problems in certain departments and organisations, to which he replied that it was now possible to "look to the capacity of cloud computing to solve some of those issues in a manner that was unthinkable" when projects such as the HSE's PPARS were undertaken. "The system has learned since then," said the minister.
Gerry Murray, public sector manager, EMC Ireland, added that Cloud4Gov changes the risk profile for these projects," allowing any critical issues to be identified earlier before major expenditure on systems and hardware as would have occurred previously.