When Tim Cook announced the Apple Watch in 2014, he was careful to emphasise that it would not merely be an iPhone shrunk to fit one’s wrist: rather, it would combine the benefits of wearable technology with telecommunications tech. Users would not only be able to communicate with others; the smartwatch would also be a health and fitness tracker.

When agencies develop hybrid services, it’s an opportunity to create a product that’s more than the sum of its parts. In the move towards hybrid clouds, services that bring out the best of both the public and the private cloud will similarly be the most attractive to government agencies.

At a recent roundtable discussion, key opinion leaders shared how dedicated cloud infrastructure as a service will support governments in empowering public servants with digital tools while ensuring data is locally stored.

The best of both clouds

“Cloud is not the future – it’s already here,” Chua said. Governments across the world are on the path towards digital, and the cloud is increasingly a necessary condition for providing digital services.

Private clouds refer to when organisations store data within their own infrastructure, typically their own data centres. Organisations may also choose the public cloud and subscribe to shared infrastructure offered by cloud providers such as Oracle or other hyperscalers.

With the public cloud, governments can scale up digital services rapidly when necessary by purchasing more computing power or data storage. They can also access pre-built services on the cloud, such as cloud-based machine learning applications, leaders told AI x GOV 2022.

On the other hand, agencies may adopt the private cloud to ensure maximum security as all data is stored on their own servers. Governments around the world are increasingly concerned about keeping their data stored locally rather than on foreign shores. Private cloud services may be more appropriate in this case.

One prominent example is TikTok. The Chinese-owned social media app has begun shifting American users’ data to Oracle cloud servers located in the US to allay privacy concerns, the New York Times reported.

However, options are no longer limited to public or private cloud. A range of hybrid options are emerging that provide both the flexibility of the public cloud and the security of the private cloud.

One such model is dedicated cloud infrastructure as a service, Chua said.

This involves public cloud service providers such as Oracle hosting and managing private cloud infrastructure for government agencies. This means that the service provider will take charge of upgrading software and also host the hardware where the agencies may prefer.

This allows governments to access all the benefits of public cloud services while being confident that the data is stored locally. On top of that, the cloud service provider will handle all the hardware, freeing the government from spending their resources on hardware upgrades.

Bangladesh is already moving in this direction, Chua explained. The country plans to run its entire IT portfolio on Oracle’s dedicated cloud services while having physical control of their data. This will allow their civil servants to efficiently introduce new services while ensuring that citizen data remains secure.

All the efficiency benefits of the public cloud

On top of the additional security, the dedicated cloud infrastructure as a service retains all the key benefits of the public cloud. Agencies can use it to meet data sovereignty requirements while benefiting from the low cost of public cloud services and gaining access to value-added services and scalability.

First, it allows agencies to quickly scale services to match a sudden increase in need and tackle growing crises. Users can also tap on existing services available on the public cloud, such as predictive analytics and low-code tools

For example, the US Department of Defense used Oracle cloud infrastructure to rapidly create a distribution and administration platform for Covid-19 vaccines – the country’s largest vaccine distribution event in history. In less than three months, the Department integrated data streams from more than 100 public and private systems to develop this platform.

With low code tools, CDC officials also worked with Oracle developers to quickly create an app for Americans to report side effects of the vaccine.

Second, the service retains the same user experience as public cloud, making the shift from public to dedicated cloud infrastructure seamless.

Third, Oracle ensures that the service is as cost effective as the public cloud. The service can increase and decrease computing power depending on how much is needed. This lowers energy costs while improving overall performance.

Hybrid work, hybrid clouds

This hybrid cloud approach might also be pivotal to ensuring the longevity of hybrid work.

In Singapore, the public service is taking the lead on flexible work, according to the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

However, key concerns around work norms and cyber security persist, according to the Public Service Division. Public cloud services can help alleviate concerns around overwork and performance management. For instance, remote monitoring tools can help managers to observe what remote workers are working on and if they are struggling with tasks or with the broadband connection.

Dedicated cloud infrastructure as a service can take these relevant slices of the public cloud and even provide access to edge applications, Chua explained.

Meeting sustainability goals

Oracle’s dedicated cloud infrastructure also promises to support agencies in meeting sustainability goals. As governments begin to implement their green plans, they may be taking a closer look at their energy consumption as well as the waste generated within their supply chains.

Oracle has pledged to power its global operations with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025 and plans to achieve net zero by 2050. It is also committed to reducing waste: In 2021, the company has recycled and reused 99.6 per cent of its hardware.

Dedicated cloud infrastructure promises to change the way governments perceive the choice between private and public cloud computing. Instead, governments now have the opportunity to have their cloud and eat it too, achieving both the security of the private cloud and the flexibility of the public cloud.