Legacy IT and RoI fears limit public sector's cloud appetite

Whitehall street sign outside the Cabinet Office

Many government departments are still not adopting public cloud services, while the NHS have doubts over the RoI potential on cloud spending, according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

Less than a third of NHS trusts surveyed (30%) and under two-thirds of central government departments (60%) have adopted any level of public cloud services within their organisation, according to the FoI.

Fewer than one in five NHS trusts and central government organisations believe they will get a return on their investment in public cloud adoption. Meanwhile, 41% of central government respondents (41%) and 79% of NHS respondents plan to migrate all their services onto a cloud platform.

This is despite the NHS setting out guidelines just last month designed to protect patient data while encourage trusts to adopt cloud services, and a longstanding cloud-first motto pushed by the Government Digital Service.

IT management firm SolarWinds, which received replies from 160 NHS trusts and 28 government departments to its FoI, said the findings are clear evidence that barriers to public sector cloud adoption still exist.

Chief technologist Paul Parker said: "Public sector users, particularly those handling sensitive data, have yet to be convinced that the public cloud is an integral tool that can provide considerable ROI."

One problem identified in the research was the difficulty public sector organisations have in monitoring the public cloud as part of their broader data infrastructure. Approximately half of NHS organisations and just over half of central government departments use four or more monitoring tools to manage their infrastructure.

Around half of NHS trusts said the biggest barriers to managing and monitoring their cloud environments were finding suitable workloads for the cloud and a lack of control over cloud vendors' performance. For central government, 35% highlighted uncertainty around securing clouds as their biggest obstacle.

More broadly, 53% and 50% of NHS and central government respondents respectively believe legacy IT systems have contributed to the failure to adopt public cloud. They also blamed vendor lock-in and security concerns, while 25% of central government deparments complained that a lack of cloud skills was holding them back.

In terms of cloud priorities for central government, the FoI found that 76% of departments using the cloud are migrating applications, 53% are using it for data storage, and 41% for databases. Within the NHS, 68% of trusts using the cloud are migrating applications, 43% using it to host databases, and 32% storing data.