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Why the embarrassing cloud outages in Parliament are only the tip of the iceberg

In reaction to the recent email revelations regarding government outages from Joan Miller, Director of Parliamentary ICT at parliament, I wanted to address these issues head on.

Firstly, it's a fundamental oversight that the Houses of Parliament is migrating to a cloud-based office application, yet still siloes the work to be done on its network - almost treating the two as if they aren’t related.

What's needed now is a holistic overview of what is happening within large scale IT systems. Organisations need to mine data, probe ports and monitor applications to a higher degree.

If we’re not in control of exactly what’s happening within our ICT organisation, then who is?

This is a question stimulated by Joan Miller’s recent revelations. It’s laudable that our own government is forward-thinking enough to understand and embrace the ability to buy technology as a service. It shows vision, it takes tenacity, and it underlines the need to lead from the front.

But the question remains whether Francis Maude’s Cloud First mandate adopts the ‘leap before you look’ policy.

The central problem is the fact that ICT has been siloed for such a long time. With each department having its own master, you simply can’t push an ICT utility service into an organisation without first unencumbering those masters.

The network is the plumbing of the organisation and therefore essential to connectivity. A robust, resilient architecture is absolutely crucial to delivering layers of applications to end users. Intrinsic’s heritage lies in the design and deployment of networking infrastructure, and we maintain this is always the starting point prior to undertaking any other IT transformation or development work.

Both wide and local area networks and any wireless deployments should be first assessed for suitability by undertaking thorough health checks. Best practice dictates these infrastructures are monitored with traps and alarms set up to highlight potential downtime before it becomes user-affecting. Once this is in place and with quality of service configured, the process can then begin to layer applications across your network.

Ultimately, as each application is integrated onto the network, the same approach should be taken toward monitoring and assessing. Therefore, by adopting this ground-up approach, IT can very quickly drill down to pinpoint the exact issue that may cause the outage prior to it affecting the delivery of services.

It then becomes a relatively simple process to deploy new technologies and applications because the blueprint now exists to assess, monitor and manage with complete confidence that the underlying plumbing is robust, resilient and reliable.

We’d like to see the Houses of Parliament heeding these best practices and setting an example to other organisations, both public and private, looking to make their IT pipes watertight in order to prevent outages as recently suffered by HM Government.

Darron Antill is CEO of Intrinsic.

Read more: How is IT kept secure in the House of Commons? - an interview with Crispin Blunt