Patrick Smellie at BusinessDesk says the productivity commission wants government to use offshore cloud providers:
The government should lead the way to cheaper cloud computing services by using offshore providers rather than just New Zealand firms, the Productivity Commission says in its final report on improving productivity in the services industries.
The report goes on to say:
By favouring domestic cloud services, which are significantly more expensive than similar overseas services, the government has missed opportunities for cost savings and technology demonstrations.
Significantly more expensive
Offshore cloud providers certainly have economies of scale that aren’t possible in New Zealand.
This can mean lower prices. In some cases massively lower prices. One cloud customer told me a local supplier charges 11 times as much for storage as Amazon Web Services.
It’s not that simple. The company in question buys reserved international bandwidth to access overseas data centres.
Even taking that into account, local cloud services are many times the cost of using overseas suppliers.
That’s not always true. In some cases local cloud service companies like Revera and Datacom can match international providers thanks to using nimbler technologies.
Of course, if government departments export data to overseas cloud services, there’s even less opportunity for local cloud providers to build economies of scale.
More to the point, cloud storage and processing costs are often only a small part of the overall cost of any computing project. In many cases they can be almost vanishingly small compared to other costs.
In other words paying less for storage may not change the total cost by much. It certainly won’t help much if the human costs of deal with remote service providers are relatively high.
I’m also a little uncomfortable with only two submarine cables linking New Zealand to the rest of the world. The risk of both legs of the Southern Cross Cable Network failing at once may be small, but it is not infinitesimal. Hopefully this will change.
Technology cultural cringe
Call me cynical if you like, but the wording of the Productivity Commission report almost reads like it was written by an overseas cloud service provider.
There’s no question multinationals like Google and Microsoft have government affairs professionals in Wellington who are paid to lobby politicians and get the company’s position in front of organisations like the Productivity Commission.
They spend millions on lobbying, local cloud companies have nothing like their budgets. On the surface it sounds as if the Productivity Commission hasn’t even listened to the locals, although I doubt that’s actually true.
The problem here could be part of what I call ‘The wise men from the east” syndrome. Government employees and organisations like the Productivity Commission seem to think when it comes to technology, people who speak with American accents know more than those who speak with New Zealand accents.