Research: Hybrid cloud the norm for public sector

Most public service infrastructure is still on-premise, with more than two-thirds of services currently less than 50 percent cloud-based

Posted 3 February 2021 by Christine Horton

The UK public sector is making great progress with its cloud journey – buthybrid-cloud will be the norm for the foreseeable future

Those are the findings of a new FOI inquiry by NetApp, which investigated the public sector’s use of the cloud.

Sent to 195 departments, public bodies, agencies and Trusts, the inquiry found that more than half (53 percent) of public services are currently using a hybrid-infrastructure. Most public service infrastructure is still on-premise, with more than two-thirds of services currently less than 50 percent cloud-based.

With 16 percent of respondents aiming to be fully cloud based in three years’ time, and petabytes of data currently held on legacy systems, the inquiry suggests a hybrid environment for the foreseeable future.

NetApp believes this fact, along with the complexity of cloud services – with more than 38,000 potential services on offer – and existing infrastructure demands, “implies that realistic and sensible planning is necessary for an agile environment that unlocks the cloud’s full potential.”

Netapp’s modelling based on current public spending on IT infrastructure also found that a potential of at least £30 million per annum of incremental savings could be made “through continuous optimisation as the government refines its data strategy.”

“These findings definitively show that our public sector will continue to operate in a hybrid environment over the medium term,” said Tim Skinner, sales director of NetApp public sector. “As the UK’s public services strive to get the best out of both worlds – cloud and on premises – they must focus on optimising and truly integrating these various environments with one another. Not only can this drive significant cost savings and lay the foundations for delivering improved services, it will accelerate them in their journey towards the cloud.” 

UK government priorities and challenges 

When asked what the top priorities for cloud migration are and what public services must consider in their journey, 54 percent of respondents selected improved organisational agility. Agility in this case was described as “the ability to move data around and take advantage of new commercial or technological opportunities to optimise costs and improve services.” This need for smooth data portability and access is echoed by 46 percent of respondents, who selected “negating service interruption” as a key challenge for data strategy implementation. A further 32 percent highlighted the length of migration processes. 

Other notable priorities and challenges include 43 percent selecting operating-cost control and flexibility of service, and 32 percent prioritising staying up to date with the latest technologies.

“These findings demonstrate that progress has been made in realising the government’s Cloud First policy, but perhaps the hardest task is yet to come if the goals of the National Data Strategy are to be met,” said Adrian Cooper, field CTO for NetApp public sector.

“We recognise that the transition from complex legacy IT platforms to digital-first architectures will be a long-term endeavour, which is why we are working hard with our partners to build solutions which ‘bridge’ the old and new worlds. By creating a hybrid cloud data fabric rather than separate disconnected storage silos, public sector organisations can improve data mobility and sharing, reduce cloud consumption costs, and meet data compliance obligations.” 

In another notable finding, 37 percent of respondents selected culture change as one of the biggest challenges to overcome in implementing data strategies. Encouragingly, only four percent of respondents cited a lack of data strategy as a main challenge, suggesting a drive from senior leadership teams to implement cloud. 

Nine percent of departments and services have targets of being only 10 percent cloud based in three years’ time, and at least two NHS Trusts currently have no plans to use the cloud.