G-Cloud-hosted app store trial launches this week

Will plan for public sector apps save taxpayers' cash?
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

Will plan for public sector apps save taxpayers' cash?

An apps store that could help the government slash the cost of its IT infrastructure is to be trialled from this week.

Prototype versions of the Government Application Store - a central store of software applications that can be accessed by public sector organisations over the internet - will be available to a selection of public sector bodies.

The pilot was announced by Martin Bellamy, director of the office of the government CIO, and the civil servant in charge of the G-Cloud project, announced at the GovNet Government IT 2010 event in London last week.

The store will provide software applications that are used by organisations throughout the public sector, such as email and VoIP clients and HR and ERP apps. The shift towards delivering these from the cloud rather than building and supporting hundreds of separate versions running in different datacentres promises to deliver big savings for government.

The final version of the app store will be hosted on the G-Cloud, a private cloud platform made up of about 12 networked datacentres that will host all software used by public sector organisations.

The trial will be the public sector's first taste of the G-Cloud, however Bellamy estimates the government's shift to cloud computing will take a long time - saying it would take "four to five years" to build up the G-Cloud and the app store and at least another "four to five years" for them to become widely used across the public sector.

"It is a long journey but we are encouraging public sector organisations to get started, from next week we will be launching the 'quick wins' programme that will allow public sector organisations to start trying using a prototype app store," he said at last week's GovNet event.

Trial versions of the app store will be built on four existing cloud platforms: a government-hosted Microsoft Azure platform, the Virtual Computing Environment platform produced Cisco/EMC/VMware, the Amazon EC2 platform and a fourth platform provided by "a major supplier of utility computing".

As well as hosting the app store, the G-Cloud datacentres will also be open to individual organisations to host their in-house IT software, potentially allowing public bodies to shut down their own existing datacentres.

The G-Cloud will also provide a central platform where accredited suppliers can host software targeted at the public sector and where new software can be developed at a low cost.

By allowing the public sector to reduce the 10,000-plus software packages and hundreds of datacentres it currently relies on, Bellamy believes the G-Cloud model promises to deliver annual savings on IT spend beyond the £3.2bn demanded by the Treasury's Operational Efficiency Programme (OEP).

He said: "The 25 per cost reduction called for in the OEP is obtainable, some of the largest suppliers have indicated that the savings potential is considerably greater than that. We feel that we could go further, perhaps considerably further.

"We have seen organisations that have gone wholesale to this model achieve cost reduction in the 40 to 60 per cent bracket."

He added that the roadmap for developing the G-Cloud set out in the Government ICT Strategy, released on Wednesday, laid the foundations for the UK to become an international model for cloud computing.

"We are well placed to be leaders in deployment of cloud computing," Bellamy said.

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