Public sector organisations have long recognised the potential of cloud services - especially for digital transformation - but are still being held back by a raft of potentially turbulent issues, from a lack of policy and skills to fears over data security and flexibility, according to a new study.
While the UK Government adopted a "cloud first" policy back in 2013, the majority of public sector organisations have yet to make the switch.
Last year, the Crown Commercial Service and the Government Digital Service launched a review of the cloud first policy, while organisations such as NHSX and Defence Digital were formed to address specific challenges of harnessing innovative technologies to drive better public services.
Even so, a survey carried out by UKCloud highlights a number of reasons why more organisations are not following suit.
According to the research, based on interviews with 300 senior IT professionals and business leaders in the public sector, the vast majority (87.2%) stated they would switch to the cloud but only if a "perfect solution" existed.
These results were reflected at all levels, across business and technical respondents – and 82% of respondents agreed that the senior leadership in their organisation “understands and values progressive technology”.
Yet, the survey also found that more than three-quarters cited “lack of clear policy/strategy” as a factor impeding cloud adoption, with more focus needed on the technical and non-technical challenges of modernising existing technology, not just building new cloud native applications.
Meanwhile there are also widespread concerns over the commercial risks of cloud adoption. Nearly four in five (78%) respondents expressed a fear of vendor lock-in and a similar number agreed that the risk of “over reliance on a sole provider” is inhibiting their cloud adoption.
More than 85% agreed that they would prefer multi-cloud, presumably as a means to mitigate these commercial risks.
Another aspect that emerged is related to operational risks to live systems, with the majority (85.2%) of those surveyed believing their organisation is reluctant to move workloads to the cloud due to security concerns.
There also remains a significant minority who still will not consider public cloud for their most secure and sensitive systems, while two in five (40%) also ruled out public cloud for systems that they need to run on-premises or in Crown Hosting.
The survey also confirmed the skills issue. Over three-quarters (78.3%) of respondents, said they lacked the skills and resources, such as DevOps and automation, to build and operate cloud-native applications.
Whilst this is necessary to get the best out of hyperscale platforms, multi-cloud enables organisations to carry forward their existing skills in established technologies like VMware, Red Hat and Cisco which remain relevant for longer, the study’s authors insist.
Secondly, multi-cloud enables organisations to consider buying specialist SaaS solutions rather than building their own cloud native applications – tapping into the skills and capabilities of software companies.
Finally, most (84.5%) respondents agree that cost/affordability is the biggest impediment to cloud adoption, with almost 80% agreeing that “fear of runaway costs” is a notable hindrance.
This supports the concept of "cloud repatriation", where organisations bring unsuited workloads back from the public cloud and demand for tools like VMware CloudHealth which helps organisations better understand the costs they are incurring in the public cloud.
Cloud Industry Forum chef executive Alex Hilton commented: "We have been monitoring the adoption of cloud-based services across the UK for the past ten years. We have seen unprecedented change take place in that time, with many companies now realising the potential of cloud services helping them fulfil their digital transformation goals.
"These journeys may have started a long time ago, but they are far from over: rapidly evolving business challenges mean that diversity and collaboration are necessary to move forward. A cloud led strategy must be at the heart of any digital transformation."