One year on, has the G-Cloud project really changed the way the government buys IT?

Cloud buying is simpler, quicker, cheaper, says the UK government - but there's still a long way to go until the model becomes the norm.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

The UK government's cloud procurement project is now a year old — and while supporters insist it has proved itself as a cost-effective and open way for the government to buy and operate IT, the numbers suggest here is still a long way to go.

Since February 2012, public-sector organisations have been able to purchase IT services, including IaaS and PaaS, from the government's CloudStore online catalogue. The idea is to allow government agencies to purchase on-demand cloud-based services, already certified for public-sector use, with transparent pricing.

The program behind the CloudStore, known as G-Cloud, has launched two supplier frameworks to date. There are 459 suppliers on the current framework — around 75 percent of them SMEs — who are allowed to offer services such as hosting, storage, email, document management systems, collaboration tools and virtual desktops through the CloudStore.

Applications for the third framework close at the end of this month, which will make extra cloud products available through the CloudStore, including accessibility tools, anti-spam and captcha, gamification and learning management.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the CloudStore is the model for better public sector IT. "This is the way we want government IT to be — simpler, quicker, cheaper and focused on matching solutions to business requirements, reducing waste and cutting costs," he said in a statement on Tuesday marking CloudStore's one-year anniversary.

G-Cloud: A hit or miss?

While the CloudStore has been up and running for a year, so far spending has actually been limited – there have only been 200 purchases of IT services through the CloudStore, totalling a mere £6m, of which 61 percent (more than £4.6m) has been with SMEs. However, the CloudStore's total is dwarfed by overall government IT spending, which is around £16bn per year — meaning 0.04 percent of all government tech purchasing is carried out through the store.

G-Cloud programme director Denise McDonagh said the move to purchasing IT services as a commodity requires a culture shift for the public sector that won't happen overnight.

But she said that after only a year, most big government departments have bought services from G-Cloud, and there is significant buy-in from local government.

In the past it has proved difficult to pin down the cost savings that the government is hoping to achieve from G-Cloud, and other elements of the government's cloud policies are taking longer to be implemented.

Back in October 2011 the idea of 'cloud first' was included in the government's cloud strategy, but so far this has not been implemented.

Alastair Mitchell, CEO of Huddle, a company that has made significant sales through the CloudStore, said the launch of G-Cloud was merely the first step, and getting the public sector to purchase through the portal is the next. "It's essential we adopt a cloud-first policy, pushing cloud from the top down. Old habits die hard but we need a shift in the approach to buying IT services," he said in a statement.

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