Vote to Outsource

Vote to Outsource

What's stopping the Public Sector from outsourcing its IT Infrastructure? Phil Alsop, Editor of DCS Europe investigates on the VIRTUS Blog.

Written by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published Tuesday, 28 June 2016 08:37

I was going to start this article by saying that, just as few, if any, individuals or organisations would dream of running their own power station (unless, of course, they are in the power generation business!), neither should it make sense for most of us to try and run our own IT operation. However, as more and more folks are, thanks to developments such as solar power and biogas, indeed running their own power ‘facility’, this analogy does not work! Safer to point out that technology doesn’t stand still. So, just as it now does make sense for people and companies to generate their own power thanks to advances in technology; for similar, technology reasons it now makes more sense than ever for all but a very few to consider the idea of outsourcing more and more of their IT infrastructure.

Where once such basics as lack of bandwidth, lack of security and lack of reliability were major barriers to the idea of outsourcing applications and their underlying infrastructure, and caused major headaches for many of those in the public sector who did try and go down this route, it’s now a safe bet that the ‘modern’ outsourcers – the colocation and cloud service providers (CSPs) - have a much more resilient, agile, optimised and, importantly, cost-effective IT offering than any government, health, education (except for specialised university IT departments, maybe) or other public sector organisation.

The connectivity options offered by colos far outweigh those that any public sector organisation can afford; the security approach taken by them, both in terms of the technology and the specialised personnel it has available to counter cyber threats, is almost certainly going to be more robust than anything afforded by a public sector body; and then there’s their access to multiple sites to ensure availability and agility in terms of when and where any specific application is hosted. Add to this the benefit that customers can obtain from technology economy of scale – accessing an asset that the colo can ‘afford’ by offering it to multiple customers, where no single customer could justify such an investment, and the argument for considering some form of outsourcing becomes somewhat compelling.

And not just for the basics, such as email and simple office applications. There’s no doubt that many organisations have been happy to trust colocation providers and CSPs with their email traffic and their sales database, for example, thinking that such relatively low key applications can be ‘risked’ outside their own office for the sake of big money savings. Increasingly, many private enterprises are beginning to trust colos and the Cloud with more mission-critical applications and infrastructure. And if these companies are giving such a vote of confidence to these third party providers, then it’s not immediately obvious why public sector organisations would not follow suit.

Put simply, there is no overwhelming technological reasons why you wouldn’t outsource your IT function. Not only will your applications likely be safer, faster, more reliable, and cheaper to run than in-house, you could also find that, by going the colocation/Cloud route, you’ll actually be able to access services and applications that you simply cannot afford to run on-premise. Big Data is a great example of this. The servers, storage and networking capacity required to run a massive database search are beyond the reach of all but the few who can make money out of high performance computing infrastructure. However, renting such compute power from your colo provider does make financial sense. And with the Internet of Things, with all its yottabytes of data points to be processed, analysed and, maybe, stored, just gaining momentum, why wouldn’t any public sector organisation want access to the kind of technology and, subsequently, information, that could have a massive, positive transformational impact on so many aspects of the organisation’s and its customers’ lives?

The healthcare industry is predicted as the most likely to benefit from the potential of Big Data – with the very real possibility of life-changing research becoming more affordable and practical than ever before. But it’s not difficult to think of many other public sector areas that could benefit from Big Data – projects that ‘we’d like to do, but just can’t justify in terms of cost’ can very quickly become ‘What about if we run a search based on this…ok, let’s get on to our infrastructure/service provider and see if we can get this run by the end of the day/week’. No need to wait for the budget or the infrastructure build, just call your outsourcing partner, or go online and fire up the project straight away.

So what’s stopping everyone? Nothing more than a mental block. If IT is owned by us, and we can see it every day, we somehow think that, however badly it is run and maintained, it’s still ‘safer’ having it on-site than somewhere ‘out there’. Back to our power station analogy – most of us are happy to switch on the light, or plug socket, without suffering massive angst as to whether there’s any power available; and trusting a colocation provider should be no different. You might not be able to see your IT infrastructure, but when you need it, your colo will provide it.