- The UK government’s G-Cloud Programme has suffered from setbacks, leading to limited uptake so far. However, two recent developments – the commencement of the new G-Cloud iii framework, doubling the number of approved CloudStore suppliers, and the confirmation by the government last month of its ‘cloud first’ procurement strategy – should jumpstart British public sector migration to the cloud.
- Increased cloud adoption by government organizations, and indeed the high-level policy directive behind it, should have a knock-on effect within the enterprise market, first in semi-state and non-profit organizations and then increasingly in SME and corporate enterprises.
The G-Cloud Programme is a cross-government initiative led by two UK cabinet ministers (Justice and Home Office) as part of the official Government ICT Strategy, designed to leverage public cloud resources to reduce public sector spending and consolidate data centres. The initial focus is on introducing cloud ICT services into government departments, local authorities and the wider public sector via a new procurement framework for IT services. These services can then be reviewed and purchased through the G-Cloud’s CloudStore, which offers over 7,000 services from more than 700 suppliers in the areas of infrastructure (IaaS), software (SaaS), platform (PaaS), and specialist services.
The new G-Cloud iii framework has expanded the number of these ‘specialist services’ to include categories for identity services, service integration and service management tools and software support, with a number of SIs and application providers doubling the approved supplier list. Critics from the ‘pure cloud’ world complained that large consulting firms were now diluting the mix, as it was those high-cost firms and their premises-based outsourcing models that the government was looking to move away from. While those concerns are valid, it is also important to note that availability of supplementary cloud professional services (consulting and integration) is a major factor in completing more significant cloud migrations (i.e., IaaS rather than single application SaaS) and consultants, SIs and large software vendors have actually accounted for a significant amount of G-Cloud business so far. According to the programme’s running tally of cloud purchasing, major players such as Atos, IBM, Microsoft, PA Consulting and Symantec are among the successful suppliers over the last year, along with significant wins for integrators Prolinx, Agilisys, Valtech and Emergn. At the same time, smaller technology and service providers, encouraged by the government to join the framework, account for 80% of the 708 total suppliers in the CloudStore, where they benefit from a (more) level playing field than in the past.
Since it launched in Q1 2012, the G-Cloud’s CloudStore has still only generated 22 million GBP in cloud computing sales so far, but this modest rate of spending is set to increase. By expanding the types of services included and more than doubling the number of suppliers involved, capacity and choice have been expanded significantly. More importantly, the government has laid down the law in terms of its ‘cloud first’ policy, mandating that central government organizations consider and fully evaluate potential cloud solutions before considering other options.
This policy, which is also being ‘strongly recommended’ (but not mandated) to the rest of the public sector, should serve as a catalyst for adoption, with the central government serving as a role model for local government, health, education and eventually the private sector. If the government, with its bureaucratic processes, high-level security requirements and extremely broad information and technology requirements can successfully adapt to cloud computing (and realize true savings, which are also being tallied by G-Cloud), perhaps any organization can. These two developments – G-Cloud iii and the confirmation of the ‘cloud mandate’ – should act as a spur for more widespread adoption, aided by the changing attitudes of UK enterprises. While a number of surveys over the last couple of years have shown UK cloud adoption trailing the US by a significant margin, a new study has found that 70% of SMEs believe that adoption of the cloud “will be an important factor to contribute to the growth of their business in the next 12 months.”