Amazon Cloud Saves Day For Australian Govt. IT Project - InformationWeek
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4/3/2009
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Bob Evans
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Amazon Cloud Saves Day For Australian Govt. IT Project

Australia's federal government started building a site that would let Aussies compare prices at various grocery stores, but the project was a disaster - "a basket case" and "a complete, useless farce," said one MP. And now an Australian integrator plans to completely rebuild the site using Amazon's EC2 cloud with ties to Google Maps. Sounds like on this deal, the technology will be the easy part.

Australia's federal government started building a site that would let Aussies compare prices at various grocery stores, but the project was a disaster - "a basket case" and "a complete, useless farce," said one MP. And now an Australian integrator plans to completely rebuild the site using Amazon's EC2 cloud with ties to Google Maps. Sounds like on this deal, the technology will be the easy part.SMS Management and Technology is deploying 10 developers to work on the project, and a spokesperson for the project said it will eventually offer consumers timely, localized, and relevant information, all of which were apparently missing from the original deployment. Hmm - if you don't include information that's timely, localized, and relevant, then what do you include? More details on that below.

So contractor SMS will use an off-the-shelf e-commerce app, host the thing in the Amazon cloud, and add in other Web 2.0 apps along with Google Maps, according to an article on Australia's iTNews.com.

Now, all of that seems straightforward enough, but it's both informative and educational to take a look at the opposition the project faced five months ago when the government was managing the project. And if you think you've taken some shots in project-review meetings, how would you like to have been the PM on this one when Australian Shadow Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Luke Hartsuyker made the following comments as reported by iTNews:

"GroceryChoice is widely regarded in industry circles as being nothing more than a basket case," Mr. Hartsuyker said. "The website would be just as useless if Mr Bowen poured four times the amount of money in to it. The idea that he can somehow make it more useful now is ludicrous. The site does not provide any specific costs on any specific items at any specific supermarket. The website is damaging to independent supermarkets as it places shops of all shapes and sizes in the one group and ignores the convenience many of them provide. The website breaks Australia up into enormous regions that provide absolutely no relevance whatsoever regarding where a consumer may obtain the cheapest groceries. And to top it off, the information is over a month old. GroceryChoice is a complete, useless farce. The Government should admit it and kill it off quickly."

Amazon's cloud business has tackled some thorny technology challenges involving security, partitioning, access, integration, conversions, and more - but the highly politically charged atmosphere around this GroceryChoice project will present some non-technical challenges of a type the Amazons might not have encountered previously.

On the other hand, if it's true that the thing is currently "a complete, useless farce," then there's nowhere to go but up, right?

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