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As governments begin radically transforming the ways in which they procure cloud-based ICT services, it’s worth taking a closer look at what the UK government has done to deploy these technologies and services to its departments and agencies. Their approach raises serious questions about how cloud services may be procured in the future – for governments and enterprises big and small.

The CloudStore is the first of its kind and may serve as a model for cloud procurement outside government

The CloudStore is the first of its kind and may serve as a model for cloud procurement outside government

It’s worth mentioning that the UK government is not the first or only collection of public sector organisations moving to a centralised, cloud-focused utility computing model. Governments from North America to Australia have formal cloud computing strategies in place, in various shapes and sizes.

Canada has set up Shared Services Canada, a standalone department dedicated to administering individual cloud services to various departmental and agency IT departments. Australia and the United States have opted for a range of associated mechanisms (policies on service delivery, validation, security certification primarily) to enable their public sector organisations to migrate certain ICT services over to the cloud, with a few European countries – France, Germany – following suit to a limited extent.

G-Cloud is the UK government’s framework for introducing cloud-based ICT services into government IT departments and streamlining IT procurement across, eventually, the entire group of public sector organisations. Pegged as one of the most ambitious IT overhauls attempted to date, the G-Cloud framework, now in its third iteration (G-Cloud III), seeks to connect IT departments to hundreds of vendors of cloud-based services, including infrastructure (IaaS), platforms (PaaS), software (SaaS) and other specialist cloud services. The Government hopes to encourage the use of cloud-based services among government organisations, with the aim of eventually shifting the vast majority of public sector IT onto the cloud – be it public, private or hybrid.

There’s An App – Or Service – For That

Now, how are these cloud services procured? Enter the CloudStore, a one-stop-shop for UK government IT departments. For those of you who haven’t seen or heard of this, you should check it out.

You will marvel at the elegance and simplicity of CloudStore – admittedly a rare occurrence when speaking about any online government utility or web presence more broadly. Government IT personnel can navigate to the site and easily search for and procure over 7,000 cloud-based services (up from the 5,000 registered at the beginning of May) from over 800 suppliers (up from 700) approved by the G-Cloud team, who also certify the services and apps in order to remain compliant with the latest security policies. Need high-volume compute capability? There’s over 300 IaaS services listed. Are you looking for CRM? There are nearly 400 SaaS available to you. How about ERP? Or analytics? And the list goes on.

Users can filter for everything from target security impact level, data tiers and service deployment model (public, private, or hybrid) to data processing and storage locations, regional contract term jurisdictions and pricing structures (including trial and education pricing).

Towards A Common Cloud Services Market

The UK government’s G-Cloud initiative has also encouraged a flurry of investment in new infrastructure to optimise the services on offer in anticipation of high demand, with Oracle and Salesforce being the latest companies to announce the impending construction of dedicated UK data centres to support G-Cloud. The framework has also given equal opportunity to SMEs, offering them a common marketplace to compete with larger enterprises developing cloud-based solutions, which has created a huge opportunity for new entrants.

The CloudStore has also proven to be reasonably lucrative, and its popularity is growing amongst government IT departments. The service is currently only open to central agencies and departments, but the CloudStore has netted over £18 million in sales (up from £14m in January of this year) and is bound to expand once all government organisations and departments are granted access to it.

The longstanding process of IT commoditisation has grown to include cloud-based ICT services to a staggering degree. One only needs to look at the price / service offering war taking place between the big three public cloud providers – Microsoft, Amazon and Google, or the seemingly endless range of cloud-based file store-and-share services on the market to catch a glimpse of this. This process has only further encouraged governments and enterprises to shift towards the cloud.

It’s worth directing your attention to something mentioned in the EU Cloud Computing Strategy (ECCS) in September of last year: “The public sector has a strong role to play in shaping the cloud computing market. As the EU’s largest buyer of IT services, it can set stringent requirements for features, performance, security, interoperability and data portability and compliance with technical requirements.”

The question is, how long will CIOs and private sector enterprises need to wait until they have a cloud store of their own?

Comments
  • Mark Foden June 4, 2013 at 6:44 am

    …and I guess there’s no reason why private sector CIOs cannot use the Cloudstore to identify suppliers and strike deals on the basis of the descriptions of the services and the prices.

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