02 July 2010
Technology Consultant Steve Nimmons gauges the significance of G-Cloud in the move towards ubiquitous governmental computing in Digital Britain
'Smarter, cheaper, greener' is the underpinning strategy of ICT provision in the modern public sector. A significant strand of Lord Carter's 'Digital Britain' report relates to the provision of G-Cloud (government's virtual public services network) and G-AS (an application store to facilitate business application re-use), pillars of 'future state' Cloud enabled public sector services. The vision is bold – arguably a world first – and is set against a backdrop of widespread fiscal temperance. There is an urgency to leverage G-Cloud's benefits, which is predicted as a key enabler in a £3.2bn per annum efficiency saving as outlined by the Operational Efficiency Programme. Prudence demands a robust business case and risk managed implementation. Re-use, agility, increased competition and market levelling, energy use reduction, innovation in commercial models and contractual vehicles, procurement simplification (and others) are quantifiable and important facets.
Cloud Computing is aggressively enabling new opportunity in commoditisation and rationalisation of ICT supply, providing shared services via public or private implementations, by means of a utility model. Cloud is naturally geared towards economies of scale in operations, procurement and management, and supports on-demand and flexible utilisation-based consumption models. Cloud-based services in government will centralise purchasing power, facilitate improved leverage of software licensing (and increase the use of Open Source software), reduce procurement complexity and timescales, streamline ICT provision and excitingly provide new engagement potential for small- and mid-size suppliers (an aspect much more ascendant in the public sector in the US). Cloud further enables innovative delivery models such as transaction-based charging.
A compelling future state vision, key challenges centre on governance, security, scalability, resilience, vendor selection (and lock in avoidance), business change within government, migration to future state operation and ultimately public confidence. The enormity of shift is significant. People, process and technology are impacted whilst concurrently requiring uninterrupted provision of public services and core internal business functions. Transformation planning needs to account for a multitude of existing service contracts; an impetuous to align ongoing procurement to the G-Cloud and G-AS vision is therefore pressing (recognised in government's CIO Council/Intellect strategy report advocating a 'double lock' mechanism on significant ICT spending). Perceived threat to incumbent provider revenue will require careful relationship management, and sophistication of implementation planning to mitigate a potential investment 'trough'. Astute Systems Integrators will grasp the 'step change' in the commoditisation of the Enterprise Systems market and adjust strategy accordingly.
Shared infrastructure and on-demand capacity sourcing will drive cost reduction through economies of scale and associated efficiencies (ultimately focusing pan-governmental alignment of ICT provision). This has an inherent benefit in terms of Green IT. Uptake will (and must) span not only central government, but also regional and local authorities and in other sectors across entities such as primary care trusts. Systems security and secure handling of personal information will be high on the public agenda.
'Cloud outages' have occasionally blighted public implementations and will be unacceptable. Government will play a central role in driving maturity of the Cloud space. Interoperability standards, best practices, design patterns and, importantly, security principles all require close private sector engagement.
Initial implementation will undoubtedly focus on back office functions and rationalisation of 'simple' commodities (such as line of business applications).
G-AS plans to deliver a prototype in the first half of 2010 and G-Cloud aims to be 'operational' by the end of the year. We have entered an exciting, revolutionary and somewhat disruptive transitional epoch. The opportunity to engage is now at hand.
This is utter gibberish
Matt - Liverpool
Well, I read this from start to finish, and I'm none the wiser. I thought the idea of writing about an issue was to explain it, not to confuse people further.
Steve - Norwich, Norfolk