Brisbane council pioneers Microsoft Azure adoption

World's largest local government lauded for pioneering Cloud services in Australia

Brisbane City Council has become one of the first Australian public sector organisations to adopt a public Cloud service from Microsoft, leading the charge as state and federal governments consider the implications of such a migration.

In a lengthy response to the Australian Government to the Australian Government Information Management Office’s (AGIMO) draft Cloud strategy paper released last month, the software giant highlighted the local government’s move to Windows Azure, making it one of the first Australian government organisations to fully adopt a Cloud service.

According to Microsoft, Brisbane City Council adopted contract management software from Melbourne-based independent software vendor (ISV) Open Windows.

“Not only has Open Windows been able to take Brisbane City Council to the Azure Cloud but Council has embraced it in a big way, already creating over 11,000 user profiles in the system, and looking to take the application to their whole organisation,” the company’s submission reads.

A closed tender from the council indicates Open Windows was awarded the contract for its software in 2009. At the time, the council stipulated the solution should be hosted, either on a private or public Cloud.

Open Windows’ contract management software was initially based on a hosted .NET plaftorm but, according to Microsoft, has since been deployed over the Azure platform since its release early in 2010.

The move by Brisbane council came despite Microsoft initially refusing to host Windows Azure in local data centres, with the closest hosting option in Singapore at relatively higher bandwidth costs than those centres in the US or Europe.

The software giant has since announced Cloud providers HP and Fujitsu will host a local version dubbed Windows Azure Platform Appliance, though it is unclear whether this is the only obstacle to government adoption of Cloud services.

In its submission, Microsoft claimed the council’s adoption - which accompanies a similar move by MYOB to the Cloud platform in Australia - had helped the local government implement the required management software at a lower total cost of ownership and with the ability to scale up and down as required over Azure’s Web-based interface.

In responding to queries outlined in AGIMO’s strategic paper, Microsoft pushed its own services as a viable alternative to current procurement methods, claiming to have 851 customers of its public Cloud Online Productivity suite in the public sector globally.

The software giant also voiced support for a “rigorous and complete decision framework” from the Federal Government prior to procuring or implementing any Cloud services.

The process follows similar moves from the South Australian government, which plans to use current trials of public Cloud services - including Microsoft’s Live@Edu and solutions - to reconsider its risk framework.

Microsoft said a revised framework would need to involve careful consideration of cost, value and risk.

“These three inter-related aspects enable a suitable analysis of what is possible, its economic logic to the organisation and any changes in the risk profile in so doing,” the submission reads.

According to the company, governments would be required to move away from a limited top-down heirarchical approach to assets and resources, in favour of a “Principles and Risk approach”, one the software giant commended the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority for already adopted.

AGIMO closed submissions to its draft Cloud discussion paper on 31 January, and is expected to finalise its strategy shortly.

Discussions around possible adoption of Cloud services by 2015 are one of many strategies AGIMO has begun to consider in the past month, along with strategy papers relating to use of open source software and adoption of a common operating environment for participating agencies.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags cloud computingMicrosoftWindows Azure CloudBrisbane City CouncilOpen Windows

More about Brisbane City CouncilFederal GovernmentFujitsuHewlett-Packard AustraliaHPMicrosoftMYOBOpen

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