G Cloud will have an app store

The government cloud will have software for sale and run across public and private clouds, says the Cabinet Office
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

G Cloud, the UK government cloud computing project, will use both government and private-sector datacentres, and have an app store.

Martin Bellamy, the director of the office of chief information officer at the Cabinet Office, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that while the G Cloud details were still in the process of being worked out by government chief information officers, current thinking is that the project will combine both government and private-sector datacentres.

"We currently have 130 government datacentres," said Bellamy. "Part of the plan is to reduce that 130 to a smaller number, while having a flexible platform. G Cloud will be used in conjunction with the public cloud."

Bellamy added that public cloud providers would have to reach an acceptable level of information assurance to be accredited, and that the Cabinet Office was in discussions with various public cloud companies to provide services.

"We are talking to a variety of organisations, including smaller and larger providers," said Bellamy. "One of the things about the cloud market is that it's very difficult to break into. We want SMEs to feel they will have a fair crack of the whip."

The G Cloud will also include an app store from which government and local government agencies can purchase software and services from a variety of providers. Bellamy said the software would be a mixture of open-source and proprietary products.

"The preference is for open source where viable, but it's potentially possible to do a framework procurement to license over the whole of government," said Bellamy.

The government app store will be an extension of the current 'shared services' model, said Bellamy. For example, at the moment, the Cabinet Office buys its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and services from the Department for Work and Pensions. Bellamy said that pooling of resources underlies the idea of the government app store.

Government organisations will be able to access software demonstrations, work out implementation costs, and order software on an automated basis, said Bellamy. The software will be a mixture of off-the-shelf and custom made suites.

The app store will also give access to components. Bellamy gave the example of a payment object for money transfer as a component that could be embedded in a number of government sites.

Conservative shadow science and technology minister Adam Afriyie told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that the government "was moving in the right direction" with the G Cloud, but that there was still too much reliance on centralised control in the plan.

"The concept of the G Cloud is pretty good, but Labour is talking about a massive public service project," said Afriyie. "We are looking to innovation in the IT market."

In contrast to a combination of private and public clouds, the Conservatives plan to completely outsource cloud provision. However, the Tories would only do this after more consultation with interested parties, said Afriyie.

The Conservatives will use a diverse array of suppliers, and not merely rely on major cloud players, said Afriyie. "We recognise that too much power concentrated in one particular place is not good," he said, adding that the Tories would also change government procurement practices. "The problem is the government tends to outsource and replicate its own inefficient business models"

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