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The UK government is ahead of the curve in pushing cloud-first in the public sector. But will that remain the case?

2015 is a ‘make or break’ year for G-Cloud, according to a supplier listed on the framework

G-Cloud sales are likely to peak above £350m before the year is out, but 2015, which will see the launch of the sixth iteration of the UK government’s cloud services procurement framework, will be a ‘make or break’ year for the ambitious government programme according to Databarracks managing director Peter Groucutt.

G-Cloud 6 is due to launch in February, which will bring with it among other things a new self-assertion based security accreditation process, and more streamlined rules around the submission process, which Groucutt said would make the process of getting listed on the store less time consuming and somewhat easier.

“Previously, accreditations have been a barrier for SMEs as they were expensive and time-consuming. G-Cloud 6 will see the transition to security self-assertion for providers applying to the framework, which will make the process much less bureaucratic,” he said.

“It puts the responsibility on the suppliers to assert themselves, but we hope it will open up the framework to attract more vendors and further level the playing field between SMEs and the larger suppliers,” he added.

Groucutt said that the programme still has a way to go in terms of levelling the playing field between small and medium sized businesses and larger enterprises selling services to the public sector through G-Cloud.

In October close to 55 per cent of cloud services sales through the Cloud Store went to large enterprises – though it’s worth pointing out that SMEs have raked in between 50 and 57 per cent of G-Cloud sales revenue between  October 2013 and August of this year.

“By making the procurement process easier through the improved functionality of the Digital Marketplace, G-Cloud very much becomes a buyer’s market. Public sector firms searching for services will have more choice and more flexibility – something that the Cloud Store failed to really provide. G-Cloud 6 will give much more visibility into the services that SMEs have to offer.”

In November the UK government’s Digital Marketplace, which replaces the Cloud Store for buying cloud services in the public sector, went into beta, with an alpha launch likely to coincide with the February launch of G-Cloud 6.

“The next area we need to improve is to ensure less sales come from Lot 4 of the framework (Specialist Cloud Services) and more from Lots 1-3 (Infrastructure, Platform and SaaS). The majority of spending so far has been from Lot 4, which tends to focus on consulting and development services, rather than true commodity cloud services. But as public sector organisations continue to understand how to transition from their traditional legacy systems to a cloud provider, we expect to see adoption of true cloud services grow,” he added.

Some believe the changes to the certification scheme, however, by shifting the onus on suppliers to self-certify, might actually be more detrimental than positive. Massimiliano Claps, research director at IDC Government Insights told BCN that suppliers that have achieved pan-government accreditation the old way will have an advantage “because the new way is less trustworthy.”

“Even if we assume all vendors self-certify in the appropriate way, the real problem is on the buyer side – they don’t have the skills to understand if that is appropriate, and relate, tune and contextualise that self-certification to the specific use case,” he explained.

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