HP launches cloud for Australian governments

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HP launches cloud for Australian governments
The Global Switch data centre.

HP Australia has launched a cloud computing service to appeal to small and medium-sized public sector agencies.

The vendor has patiently waited for agencies to get a green light from regulators to buy IT resources as a service before switching on its Government Secure Cloud Service (GSCS) from infrastructure housed at Sydney’s Global Switch data centre.

These racks can take on government customers today and will be complemented by HP’s Eastern Creek data centre when it goes live next year.

HP said it can now offer x86 Windows server instances, storage-as-a-service, remote backup and recovery, and both Microsoft SQL database and SharePoint Server from behind a Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) accredited gateway at Global Switch for consumption by public sector agencies.

Nicholas Bellamy, enterprise cloud services lead at HP Australia said on-demand Linux server instances, Microsoft Exchange and Oracle database could also be switched on at short notice.

The underlying virtualisation infrastructure was provided by VMware, he said.

The service has been built to reflect the realities of providing services to Australian Government agencies – with strict security policies, slightly slower provisioning times, and longer contract terms than most public cloud computes.

It is priced based on the number of servers for compute and by the terabyte for storage but HP will provide volume discounts similar to traditional buying deals.

Customers are required to lock into monthly contracts rather than paying by the hour, and prices increase for better availability SLAs and reduce if the customer agrees to longer contract terms.

Customers can dial up and down the number of servers or volume of storage consumed, but only within an “agency-defined peak” that will require agency chief information officers to forecast demand.

HP has promised that new resources will be deployed within an hour of order on a self-service portal. This is unlikely to bother many public sector agencies subject to procurement processes that presently take weeks if not months.

More important to customers, the compute, storage and software available on-demand still sit behind a DSD-certified gateway, which ensures strict physical and network security controls and the ability for agency auditors to gain access to the facility, among some 50 other requirements.

Timed to perfection

Alan Bennett, vice president of enterprise services for HP South Pacific said HP possessed both the architecture (already used in Government cloud services overseas) and the necessary accreditations to offer such a service in Australia.

But the vendor waited patiently for the Australian Government Information Management Office to give a green light to specified use of cloud computing services in public sector agencies before making the service available.

“AGIMO’s strategy and the recent publication of DSD guidelines really were a precursor for us to finalise the specification of what we would go to market with,” Bennett said.

“Launching something prior would have run the risk of offering something [agencies] couldn't consume.”

Bennett said he expected that the largest eight agencies in Canberra – such as the Tax Office, Defence and Human Services - may possess the scale to be “on the right place in terms of the cost curve” to build their own ‘G-Cloud’ or shared service arrangement.

“Our target is small and medium agencies, those that spend between $5 million to $20 million on IT per year,” he said.

But Bennett also said that large agencies familiar with running shared services in-house may struggle with the service integration processes required when they effectively become a “quasi-service provider” of multitenant computing to other agencies.

Should those large agencies find this too difficult, HP will have the scale to provide them services, he said.

“We have the security fabric in place, we are commissioning equipment now and have a demonstrable service – including the self-service portal and automated provisioning - available for customers,” Bennett said. “We could start tomorrow.”

The vendor hopes to run a large scale pilot before the end of the year, running 300-400 virtual machines within a single HP blade rack.

HP will then provision its first customers from Global Switch and backup to its Rhodes data centre, before swapping out Rhodes for its Eastern Creek facility next year.

At that stage HP will be able to offer a genuine active-active network link between Eastern Creek and Global Switch in Ultimo so that both facilities act as one logical data centre.

“It is no longer reasonable to say that cloud is just hype,” commented Kevin Noonan, Government IT analyst for Ovum, who spoke at the HP launch event.

“If off-the-shelf components are 80 percent of your IT infrastructure spend, how much are you willing to pay for the last 20 percent, to take on the large amount of risk for a bespoke system?”

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