Inside the G-Cloud: How cloud-first strategy will remake government IT as we know it

Summary:What the changes really mean for the public sector...

...contracts with IT suppliers past 2015 - the date when government wants half of all new spend to be on public cloud services - government's proposition director for innovation Mark O'Neill said that many contracts will expire before then.

"Some of them have got a long time to run but a lot of them will be expiring over the next two, three, four years and I would be astonished if many, if any, of those contracts are let in the same way," he said.

Shaking off a legacy of inefficiency

Another challenge born out of the government's long history of buying IT is the amount of legacy technology in the public sector, with central government relying on tens of thousands of systems running in some 8,000 datacentres.

Shutting these systems down and dropping the data they contain into cloud services is difficult and will in some cases likely be impossible, necessitating running old systems alongside new.

"It will cost - data migration is not cheap and they will require expertise as well - so there will be some pain," said NelsonHall's Burnett.

The government's O'Neill sees this transition as less of a problem. He believes that cloud platforms can provide an easy route for migrating data from old systems, suggesting a staggered transition where legacy systems are hosted as virtual machines on a cloud platform and share data with the new cloud applications.

"I think that the cloud is an excellent way of dealing with legacy systems," he said.

"Over time, everything gets replicated to a new standard data store and the old legacy system just evaporates."

And when it comes to email - one of the first class of systems the government expects to migrate to the cloud - O'Neill said that most cloud vendors offer tools for migrating data from common packages such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes or Novell GroupWise.

Chant said that the problem of extraction from contracts and legacy systems could be dealt with if the government devotes more time to working out how it gets out of deals with suppliers.

"We don't understand exit now, we do very little work on exit. We come to an end of a large contract and go 'Oh, this is really complicated', we leave that to the new supplier and old supplier to know how they do that - it's hugely expensive and we pay for it," he said.

"We're moving to a slightly different world, to commodity-based short-term contracts and one thing we're going to make certain is that we understand the cost of exit."

Contract run times will be dramatically reduced under the cloud model, with larger programmes delivered iteratively rather than as a finished product, he said.

"I think that typically we will see contracts of monthly to a year," Chant said.

Chant hopes that these shorter, simpler contracts, combined with the highly visible shopfront of the app store and streamlined procurement rules, will encourage more SMEs to provide government IT. By attracting more SMEs to serve government, the thinking goes, increased levels of competition will drive down prices and increase innovation in the public sector IT marketplace. However, despite 500-plus companies responding to the government's first cloud framework contract, this contract is still not appealing to...

Topics: Tech Industry


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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