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In response to the recent consecutive disruptions in the administrative network in South Korea, information technology (IT) industry insiders noted that there is a fundamental problem with the national computer network system.
The current form of the national computer network has been built based on a system integration (SI) approach in which SI companies are at the center, designing and constructing systems in collaboration with various software and hardware companies.
The problem lies in the lack of expertise in the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, which is responsible for ordering and managing various government public systems and issues such as the fragmented ordering of public projects, restrictions on the participation of large corporations, and insufficient maintenance budgets.
These factors, combined, result in haphazard development and maintenance, making systematic management difficult, experts say. Due to this longstanding approach, the current public sector systems total as many as 17,060.
Moreover, as the systems are built on a ministry-by-ministry basis with data stored on individual servers, there is a significant lack of connectivity between ministries and systems, insiders say.
When a problems rises, it is challenging to pinpoint the source, and troubleshooting requires checking the entire system.
“The reason for the spate of computer network failures in the past week is that the initial infrastructure was not built tightly enough,” said Kim Yong-dae, a professor of electrical engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST).
He emphasized the need to go back to the time when the computer network infrastructure was built and reevaluate it from design to completion.
Industry insiders say that this is an opportunity to overhaul the entire SI system. What experts are highlighting as an alternative is cloud technology.
While the traditional on-premises environment involves each institution independently building and operating its computing environment, cloud technology allows institutions to utilize virtualized computing resources without owning physical servers and space.
It has the advantage of centrally managing scattered resources and flexibly increasing computing usage when needed.
“The problem with the existing system is that when there is too much traffic or an issue in one part of the program, the entire system needs to be updated instead of updating a specific part, leading to significant issues,” an IT industry insider said. “It is an inevitable step as we move from an e-government to a digital government.”
According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, the utilization rate of cloud services in administrative and public institutions was only 18 percent in 2022.
Additionally, nearly half of this usage is attributed to the cloud provided by the National Information Resources Service (NIRS) under the ministry, which is identified as the source of the recent network failures.
“The NIRS uses the traditional cloud method that involves simply collecting the systems that each ministry has, putting them on its server and virtualizing them,” another industry insider said.
“We need to switch to a cloud-native approach to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud, just like Netflix, which generates much more traffic but runs smoothly every day without any problems,” the insider said.
Cloud native is a way to maximize the benefits of cloud computing by leveraging cloud-specific technologies such as small and lightweight modular service architecture (MSA) and integration of development and operations, allowing for the development and deployment of programs in small and fast service units, rather than in a single, large, and complex structure. Resources can also be utilized more flexibly and efficiently.
In a cloud-native environment, computing resources can be quickly increased even if there is a sudden influx of user traffic to a specific service, and errors in a specific service can be responded to without stopping the entire system.
This approach has the advantage of promptly identifying and addressing problems, which is crucial in the current situation where the system is distributed and fragmented, making it difficult to pinpoint the cause of issues.
Moon Song-chun, a professor emeritus at KAIST Graduate School of Business, emphasized the need to redesign the system itself based on cloud technology.
He cited the city of Daegu as an example, as the city has been working on the construction of a continuous and uninterrupted D-Cloud system since initiating the basic plan in 2015.
However, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of the public sector has actually built a cloud-native environment.
This is why the country’s presidential committee on digital platform government has set a goal of achieving 10 percent cloud-native transition rate of public sector information resources by 2024 and 100 percent by 2030.
At the time of its launch, the committee pledged to fully transition government systems from the pre-hardware level to a cloud-native method that maximizes the advantages of the cloud.
Currently, the budget for the cloud transition projects for administrative and public institutions in 2024 is set at 75.8 billion won ($58.02 million). While this is more than double the budget of 2023 (34.2 billion won), it is significantly less than the 178.6 billion won allocated in 2022.
Some argue that as major countries like the United States and Singapore accelerate cloud adoption, Korea should also move quickly to implement government systems on the cloud.
By Jeong Ho-jun and Yoon Yeon-hae
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]