Breakthrough: Catalyst Cloud joins all-of-government cloud framework

Breakthrough: Catalyst Cloud joins all-of-government cloud framework

Local provider now stands alongside global cloud giants AWS and Microsoft.

Doug Dixon (Catalyst Cloud)

Doug Dixon (Catalyst Cloud)

Credit: Supplied

In what it described as a "big win for data sovereignty", Wellington-based Catalyst Cloud has joined the all-of-government cloud contract.

Up until now the Department of Internal Affairs-managed contract included just two members, the international giants Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. As of today, however, government agencies can easily access cloud services from a local provider as well. 

Catalyst Cloud CEO Doug Dixon said the agreement was a major milestone, removing what had been a significant barrier for the public sector to adopt local cloud. 

The deal comes after a long period of evangelising the benefits local cloud could deliver to agencies alongside overseas hyperscale providers.

"It takes a little while because the big US players are quite influential, quite compelling and quite fashionable," Dixon said. "So it took a little while to get on the radar."

The announcement will be accompanied by a brand relaunch and a marketing campaign, starting at the beginning of April. The agreement also delivered access to government forums and panels, allowing increased and direct contact with potential customer agencies, Dixon said.

“We are delighted to now have a level playing field with our overseas-owned counterparts, giving government agencies the opportunity to keep their applications and data at home, protected by our nation’s laws and data privacy regulations," he said.

Entering the cloud framework agreement removed barriers around the procurement process hindering agencies from engaging Catalyst Cloud, which been providing cloud infrastructure (IaaS) and platform services (PaaS) from three local datacentre regions since 2014.

The fact that only two overseas cloud providers had been included in all-of-government cloud framework agreements meant that, up until now, government agencies wanting to adopt the government’s cloud first policy had to store their data offshore in foreign owned datacentres.

Both Microsoft and AWS are building local datacentre regions, but neither has yet been launched.

Dixon said data sovereignty was an increasingly important issue for New Zealand organisations, with growing concerns over New Zealanders’ personal data being held with foreign cloud providers under the jurisdiction of their home country’s data laws. 

US owned cloud providers, for example, were subject to US laws including the US Cloud Act meaning they may be forced to hand over data to US authorities, regardless of where the data was stored.

Indeed, a similar law passed in Australia forced a pause and rethink about an Office 365 rollout at Parliamentary Services in 2020. That project was reignited later that year after Microsoft announced it was building a local cloud region.

Dixon said some government agencies wanted to repatriate sensitive data back to New Zealand to better protect it and to do the best by their customers.

Catalyst Cloud's open software approach and the fact that data stored with it stayed in Aotearoa was being received positively by Māori clients as they worked to assert Māori data sovereignty.

The Electoral Commission and Maori Television were already public sector customers after they chose to invest the extra effort and resources required to procure cloud services outside of the framework.

Dixon said entering the framework meant more agencies would now be able to enjoy those benefits, a faster user experience and lower network latency.

“This is something we are particularly proud of," Dixon said. "As a Kiwi business, every dollar spent with Catalyst Cloud drives local innovation, talent and growth.

“We believe it is vital for New Zealand to invest in our own cloud infrastructure, and Catalyst Cloud has a massive role to play in New Zealand’s future stability and prosperity."

Catalyst Cloud's service is built on the widely deployed open source OpenStack cloud software.

With offices in Wellington and Auckland, Catalyst Cloud became an independent company within the Catalyst IT group in August 2017.

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