Government public cloud pilot bears fruit for developers

DEEWR pilot to shape ongoing use of public and hybrid cloud

A pilot program using Amazon Web Services at the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has helped set the scene for ongoing use of public and hybrid cloud in government, particularly for developers within government agencies.

DEEWR has now been split into the Department of Education and the Department of Employment

The AWS pilot by DEEWR's Technology Solutions Group began in March this year and concluded in September.

"The initial goal of the investigation was to source an on-demand, easily scalable means of providing the server and storage infrastructure associated with supporting the development and test environments," said Susan Monkley, group manager, Technology Solutions Group.

The dev and test environments for the group currently comprise some 600 servers and associated infrastructure.

"A secondary goal of the pilot was to provide a means for application developers to commission their own environments," Monkley said.

"These unmanaged environments would allow developers to use Technology Branch-defined templates to build test servers and supporting services that would not impact development/test.

"These test labs would foster the evaluation of new technologies and services before migration to the managed environments."

The pilot focused on the compatibility of AWS's infrastructure-as-a-service offerings with DEEWR's test and dev environments.

"The pilot has mainly focused on joining AWS compute units and storage to DEEWR’s Active Directory infrastructure," Monkley said.

"This allows DEEWR IT to commission and manage AWS instances in much the same manner as virtual server instances within our own data centres.

"Like our existing test/dev servers, the AWS instances are not exposed to the Internet and can only be accessed via DEEWR Active Directory credentials over secure, virtual private networks. No private data was imported into the AWS VPC during the pilot investigation."

"As with any new technology, there was a learning curve," Monkley said.

"We are acutely aware that skills within Technology Branch need to be developed to take full advantage of the solutions that AWS offer, particularly around scripting and automation.

"We will have much greater clarity over the next six months on how we can continue to develop our people to consume public cloud to achieve the greatest value for [the departments]."

The project involved AWS's EC2, VPC, RDS, IAM and S3 services.

Underpinning the pilot were the cloud computing policy set in place by the Australian Government Information Management Office and the National Digital Economy Strategy.

Monkley cited cost reduction, increasing the department's ability to rapidly provision infrastructure for itself and allied government agencies, and the ability to quickly increase capacity as needed as advantages offered by cloud.

"Even though the default is to virtualize, the process of delivering a server to the requesting business area can take weeks," Monkley said.

Monkley "absolutely" sees a role for more use of public cloud for government agencies. "We see significant advantages for the use of public/hybrid cloud for most workloads, particularly with Test/Dev, .NET applications, SharePoint, document archives, and temporary on-demand environments for performance testing or quality assurance," she said.

However, she added the caveat that use of public cloud must conform to Australian privacy laws and the government's security framework.

"We are in the process of reconstructing our VPCs for longer term use and greater alignment with our internal topology," Monkley said.

Her team is also organising an AWS Direct Connect link to the cloud provider's Sydney data centre.

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