Shrinking the government's datacentre count

Summary:Government CIO John Suffolk talks about how the planned public-sector consolidation will be carried out, and what the benefits will be

Technology has changed, the economy has changed, and IT in government must also change, according to government chief information officer John Suffolk.

Suffolk heads up the government's recently announced programme to simplify and standardise the IT infrastructure across the different areas of the public sector. Within three years, the government aims to cut £3.2bn from its IT budget, by getting rid of duplication of technology, and sharing software and services.

Central to the strategy is the plan to reduce datacentre count: there are around 130 datacentres for central government, over 80 in policing, and a large number in local government. These will be cut to between nine and 12. To support this consolidation, the government is embracing cloud computing, including establishing its own G Cloud, and is setting up a centralised app store for agencies to get scalable access to software and services.

Suffolk talked to ZDNet UK about how the government plans to carry out its datacentre rationalisation, and how the app store will be a benefit for procurement.

What is the rationale behind consolidation?
There's an economic cost to running datacentres. HP helped us do an analysis of savings. If we rationalise the datacentres, they predicted a £900m saving over the first three years, and £300m thereafter. [In the current climate] the government is tightening its belt and cutting costs.

What is the timescale, and will the datacentres be private or public sector?
The datacentres are pretty well outsourced at the moment. Our plans surround the natural refresh of existing contracts. We will map the contracts and work out the renewals. It will be up to departments when they rationalise, but if they don't, they'll have to say why they are not rationalising.

How will you achieve the rationalisation?
They are pretty common around the world, a number of organisations have done massive reductions, so we won't be doing anything groundbreaking. This is not a new process, so there's lots of empirical evidence [to work from]. We've got to get it right. Having moved datacentres in a past life, you do go a little bit greyer around the hair.

Will consolidation bring environmental benefits?
We are planning to build datacentres with fresh-air cooling. One supplier believes they can build a zero-carbon datacentre. Absolutely, we will look at what is the best [technology] at that moment in time.

Does having fewer datacentres increase the likelihood of a successful attack being more devastating?
There are two schools of thought about that. One says that to cut the defence risk, you get rid of as many endpoints as you can. The US is dramatically reducing...

Topics: Networking


Tom is a technology reporter for, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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