Police planning major switchover to cloud computing

Police across the UK are considering a major move to cloud computing, dumping on-premise IT in an aggressive bid to cut costs, ComputerworldUK.com can reveal.

In a move likely to be seen as controversial given the sensitivity of police data, the Metropolitan Police is planning how to run a variety of front-end systems – for managing patrols, operations, incidents and investigations, managing evidence and forensics, and collating information – in the cloud. It is understood that if the project goes ahead, the Metropolitan Police would be the lead customer, with other forces buying services through a framework deal.

Under the Strategic Cloud Programme the systems would be supported by to collaboration, knowledge management, risk management, information sharing and business intelligence analytics tools. The aim is for them to be standards-based and scalable, with strong security, consumption based pricing and high service level agreements.

On 27 July, London’s Metropolitan Police held an event with suppliers and 50 police forces across the country, with a view to discussing the key requirements.

It plans to sign a seven to 10 year deal with a lead supplier or a consortium of suppliers, possibly splitting suppliers between those providing infrastructure and those supplying the connected software.

It hopes to replace 30 crucial systems and around 600 legacy applications, mainly based on Sun servers and a Microsoft Windows/Intel architecture.

The force insisted that security would be strong, with federated identity, a thorough audit trail, and a common assurance model across user forces and suppliers.

The Metropolitan Police last month created a specialist cloud computing team to deliver the early requirements. While the project is likely to go ahead, it is not yet definite.

The force said in a statement that it was "constantly looking at its future systems and IT infrastructure requirements and how they may best be delivered". Cloud computing was "one potential ser of options", it said. "We are working with both the Home Office and other policing colleagues, and the supplier market, on how these can be delivered in the most efficient, effective and collaborative manner."

The move is being motivated by the Metropolitan Police’s view that many of its key systems are too complex and costly, and are reaching the end of their lifespan.

Any replacement would need to be agile, meet government and police standards, and exist in the context of operational cost cutting. The police are weighing up cloud computing as a potential solution to meet these challenges.

“We cannot afford not to simplify,” the force told IT suppliers present at the event.

An agreement would see the provision of cloud computing services and applications, maintenance services and the appropriate middleware, it is understood.

“By 2014 to 2015, the Metropolitan Police Service needs to reduce spending by £600 million, compared to 2010 to 2011. To assist in this reduction, a number of change programmes are underway, focusing on reducing costs,” the Metropolitan Police told suppliers.

“The Strategic Cloud Programme is looking to deliver a Next-Generation Cloud based replacement for current legacy MPS applications, focusing particularly on the high volume front end operational policing systems.”

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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