Bringing the Private Cloud to the Public Sector

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People don’t often associate government with entrepreneurship. Within the Dutch government’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, however, we are taking an entrepreneurial approach to technology. We are driving a digital transformation that will dramatically enhance the service delivered to citizens, businesses, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations in The Netherlands. The driver behind our digital transformation is the need to streamline processes to increase agility and reduce costs associated with delivering servers. Digital transformation will also enable many sectors of the Dutch economy to compete more effectively in the European market as well as globally.

The organization at the heart of digital innovation is Dienst ICT Uitvoering (DICTU), the information and communication technology shared-services organization within the Ministry of Economic Affairs. DICTU is responsible for developing, running, and maintaining systems and applications that are core to operations of the Dutch government. DICTU has about 1,200 employees and manages 12,000 workstations, 830 specialized applications, and data connections at more than 200 locations. We serve nearly 18,000 government employees in two ministries.

Transitioning From IT Broker to Cloud Service Broker

As is common in government agencies, staff members were often overwhelmed by the number of requests from constituents. Moreover, constituents were often frustrated by cumbersome processes and lengthy delays. For example, farmers requesting permits or subsidies had to struggle through many complex and manual steps that took months to complete.

DICTU staff members were also frustrated by their inability to respond in a timely fashion to the  Ministry of Economic Affairs developers’ requests for development platforms. Modern agile development methodologies require rapid response to keep pace with the increasing demand for modern, digital services. What’s more, we did not have insight into the composition of our exceedingly complex IT environment, so we could not provide costing transparency to service consumers.

We realized that we had to evolve the DICTU business model, transitioning from the traditional role of IT broker to the role of cloud service broker. To do that, we needed to:

  • Evolve the mindset of DICTU personnel from a focus on technology to a focus on business services
  • Streamline and automate processes, and
  • Reinvent our traditional IT infrastructure to take advantage of modern cloud technology

As the first step in our evolution and digital transformation, we embarked on building a private cloud. We engaged Atos SE (Societas Europaea), a global leader in digital services, as a strategic partner to help manage the transformation project.

We have taken a green-field approach that gives us the freedom to design the cloud with a clean slate. We’re starting with moving a small number of our 5,000 servers and numerous databases to the private cloud. Over the next three years, the traditional infrastructure will continue to run in parallel with the private cloud environment to support the remaining services and databases. However, ultimately we will transition everything to the cloud. Longer term, we expect to implement a hybrid environment that leverages not only our private cloud but also, where appropriate, makes available service offerings from third-party cloud providers.

Our initial service automates the request and fulfillment process for development platforms. We used this project as an opportunity to begin building out a service catalog that gives users effortless access to services. Each service will include costing information to help with budgeting and planning. That gives us the cost transparency we were previously lacking.

From Fragmented to Consolidated IT Service Management

An overriding goal of the transformation is consolidation, and a primary requirement in consolidation is to manage the entire environment from a single point with a single cloud management team. In fact, DICTU has recently launched a second initiative to build a central control room for that team.

Consolidation will eliminate the fragmentation associated with traditional IT service management processes that are managed by siloed teams handling distinct areas such as servers, operating systems, databases, and networking. That traditional structure made it impossible to get an overall view of our applications and services and understand their dependencies. Consequently, performance monitoring and troubleshooting were extremely difficult.

We’re building the private cloud with products from a number of different vendors such as Oracle and VMware. Centralized, end-to-end monitoring and management of this diverse environment, which includes both traditional and private cloud infrastructures, requires vendor-agnostic IT service management tools. That is a primary reason we selected BMC Software for managing our cloud environment.

BMC TrueSight Operations Management gives us end-to-end visibility, monitoring, and control across all components of the IT environment. BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management provides the foundation for our service catalog and enables us to automate processes that provision requested services and keep the private cloud updated, well-governed, and compliant. BMC Discovery is capturing information on our IT environment so we can create an end-to-end view of the components that make up an application along with all dependencies. Service modeling enables us to map that stack back to a particular service so we can determine the cost of the service and display it in the catalog, providing transparency. Costing information sets the stage for automatic chargeback for applications and services. BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management is essential to creating the service catalog and providing transparency with respect to costs.

Early Successes Generate Momentum

We are still in the early stages of our digital journey. Our first step is enabling developers to serve themselves in obtaining smaller platform-as-a service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) environments—up to approximately 40 servers and some databases. Developers can now request a complete infrastructure or platform environment from the service catalog and receive it in about three hours—a process that previously took one to two weeks.

Our early successes are generating momentum that is helping to accelerate our digital transformation. But what is perhaps the most important factor in our success is the entrepreneurial spirit that permeates the DICTU organization. That spirit is propelling us forward as we bring more and more services to the cloud.

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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Wout van Wijngaarden

Wout van Wijngaarden

Chief Technology Officer, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Dienst ICT Uitvoering (DICTU)