Digital Britain pushes cloud computing in Government

The development of a government-wide cloud computing network – the “G-cloud” – should be made a priority, according to this week’s Digital Britain report.

In a section on government IT, the report advocated moving more government IT applications to the cloud computing and that public sector IT procurement practices are revised to encourage smaller, innovative bidders.

The “G-cloud” would allow government departments to share applications or server power, and treat IT "as a ubiquitous, on-demand service and to flexibly consume as much or as little as is needed," the report stated.

The government’s CIO Council and trade association Intellect's Public Sector Council have developed a strategic map for the creation of the G Cloud, which would help the public sector rationalise datacentres.

The two organisations are also developing a business case to justify the investment in technical functions needed to create the cloud, such as server and storage virtualisation, systems management automation, image management, and self-service provisioning.

The Digital Britain report also called for the Government chief information officer John Suffolk to have more powers, and to have a "double lock" on approving all significant ICT procurements by Government departments.

The report highlighted the lack of a competitive market in public sector IT procurement, with incumbent bidders often at an advantage: "The structuring of contracts, and the offloading of risk to the supplier, can lead to rigidity in the relationship with suppliers, and can see the public sector cede control over delivery. This is particularly pertinent in relation to ICT, where services need to evolve constantly as technology does."

The cloud could help break down the barriers to entry for new suppliers. The CIO Council should create a simplified, fast-track process - consistent with EU procurement rules - focused on a small number of areas for tender. This would allow smaller or innovative companies to compete with incumbent suppliers at the main contractor level, rather than seeking sub-contractor status with these large companies.

The report underscored the importance of the development of a Public Service Network (PSN), "a virtual network with common design, standards, service level agreements, security and governance" which aims to "supersede the overlapping and duplicative patchwork quilt of departmental or sectoral networks".

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office OCEAN project, a framework agreement to cover purchasing of communications equipment, will be the first major procurement to conform to the PSN concept.

It is hoped the creation of the G-Cloud would support the PSN, and stop public sector's historic legacy of multiple different procurement contracts being signed by different departments at different times.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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