Guest post: The journey to the Cloud: a silver lining and then some


The journey to the Cloud can often look like a challenging leap of faith for local authorities looking to close the door on their ageing infrastructure and legacy systems.

In this guest post, Agilisys’ Director of Technology Jonathan Bradshaw explains all organisations in the public sector need to know about making the transition, and how they can benefit from the full potential of Cloud.

You don’t need to work in IT to know something about Cloud computing these days. When they are not just taking technology for granted, my children and all their friends know that the valuable ‘stuff’ held on their beloved mobile phones is stored somewhere in ‘The Cloud’.

And in the business world, it’s not just IT and finance who have understood the promise of massively scalable computing power that’s available on demand and paid for only when used. ‘Cloud’ is rapidly catching up with ‘digital’ as an essential capability that every organisation must master.

The journey to the Cloud can often appear to be a challenging and complicated leap of faith to a local authority IT director who is trying to close the door for good on a local data centre filled with ageing infrastructure and legacy systems. And when members, leaders and staff come knocking on the door asking about Cloud, what is the plan that they should articulate to explain how they are going to deliver the savings and agility that Cloud computing can enable?

It has almost become a given that anyone looking to build a new customer facing application today designs it for the Cloud from the outset.

The scalability and consumption based pricing often comes as a given. But where it gets really interesting for development teams is the rich blend of other services that Cloud providers are in an arms race to develop and expand.

Between them, Amazon and Microsoft offer more than 100 platform services that enable developers to deliver better software with quality greater efficiency and higher quality than ever before. At the click of a mouse (ok, perhaps with a few lines of code too), it’s becoming easier to build applications with sophisticated features such as machine learning, big data analytics and media capabilities that can scale globally. Is there a new urgent user need? No problem; a properly Cloud architected application allows you to build, test and deploy that change in an agile fashion in the blink of an eye.

This is indeed the glamorous end of Cloud computing and it’s a world away from when I first started developing software 20 odd years ago.

For a number of applications, the move doesn’t need to involve dealing with Cloud infrastructure directly at all. A chunk of the legacy infrastructure estate disappears as a happy consequence of migrating to applications delivered through software as a service (‘SaaS’) models.

Examples include migrations to Microsoft Office 365, vendor hosted revenue and benefit systems, and Agilisys’ own Agilisys Digital portal.

For other applications, a straight lift and shift to hyper-scale providers like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services or even UK Cloud, with their standardised service offerings, either isn’t always possible, might not be the most economical approach, or sometimes both. There are a number of complexities to address which means it is essential to have flexibility in the solutions and capabilities available to you on your journey to the Cloud.

First of all, not all systems migrate easily for financial reasons (e.g. unfavourable software licensing models) or system performance demands. Then there are systems that use legacy physical infrastructure running operating systems not supported by the standard Cloud offerings of the hyper-scale providers.

Such systems require extra investment in additional software solutions to enable the migration. Finally there are the real headaches of applications on unsupported, obsolete infrastructure for which the application installation disks may have even been lost.

As more applications are delivered in some way from the Cloud, there are operational management challenges. These include understanding performance as experienced by the end user and pinpointing the cause of any problems in an increasingly long chain from the end user device, over various networks and up into the Cloud. And all of the above assumes that the security considerations have been addressed by design before you eventually get to optimising the infrastructure you use (= ‘turning things off at night’) to make the most of that ‘only pay for what you use’ promise.

It’s with these sorts of real world challenges in mind that led us to the launch last week of the Agilisys Community Cloud offering. Tech Market View at the recent “Surfing the Waves of Disruption” event in London talked about the ‘ecosystem for Hybrid IT’, which is just what Community Cloud is all about.

It’s designed to help organisations on their journey to the Cloud by making the most of hyper-scale offerings such as Microsoft Azure with the flexibility and security of Agilisys’ own UK sovereign Infrastructure as Service (IaaS) platform backed up by Cloud brokerage and migration expertise, and a network of trusted software solution partners.

As someone who has spent their career in IT, it has been endlessly fascinating to be part of an industry undergoing constant disruption and reinvention. On a daily basis we see or hear about multiple new waves of innovation all driving their own changes in the way we live and work. The great thing about the Cloud is that not only is it driving its own change, but it will also amplify the impact of all the other technology waves and doubtlessly start the ripples that become the waves for tomorrow.

Jonathan Bradshaw is Director of Technology at Agilisys

Find out more about how Agilisys can provide solutions to address the needs of public sector organisations on their journey to the Cloud.

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