Cloud-first? Cabinet Office seeks £700m datacentre partner for 'top secret' data

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The Cabinet Office and GDS (Government Digital Service) have issued a service contract notice seeking a private partner that can provide datacentre colocation services to handle UK government's information classified as "official", "secret" and "top secret".

The government has earmarked up to £700m for the four-year datacentre infrastructure agreement.

"The operating environment is to be capable of housing computer infrastructure that initially handles information with UK Government security classification 'official' but there may be a future requirement for Data Centre Colocation Services that handle information with 'secret' and 'top secret' security classification," the government document read. "The provision of secret and top secret [information] would be subject to separate security accreditation and security classification," it added.

The facilities partner must be able to subscribe for a majority shareholding (up to 75% less one share) in the new private company limited established by the Cabinet Office to provide Data Centre Colocation Services - DatacentreCo.

But under government's Cloud First policy, many existing and new applications will move to the public cloud over the next few years. The Cabinet Office's cloud-first strategy, announced last year, meant that the cloud will be mandated as the first choice for all new IT purchases in government.

The new potentially £700m datacentre will host 'legacy' applications "not suitable or not ready for cloud hosting or for which conversion to cloud readiness would be uneconomic," the document read.

Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, London (next to ...

Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, London (next to Downing Street) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Cabinet Office wants the full spectrum of datacentre services - rack space, power facilities, network and security. The datacentre hosting the official and secret information will be spread across an area of 350 sq. metres hosting 150 standard 42u racks. This sounds like a modular datacentre requirement.

And it wants "at least two separate [facility] locations subject to appropriate minimum separation requirements".  

Also on the government wish-list are datacentre compliance with security requirements, scalability, proven track-record in the last three years, performance certificates and specific latency performance requirements (less than 0.5 milliseconds) - to cater to the requirements of initial users -- Department of Work and Pensions, the Home Office and the Highways Agency.

The main aim is to have a datacentre facility that is high-quality, efficient, scalable, transparent, service-based ('utility') models - basically cloud-like but not the cloud.

How long do you reckon we'll have to wait before the government declares "serious over-capacity in datacentres" like it did in 2011?

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Given that Snowden burst the Cloud Bubble with regard to secure services that might come under US jursidiction this looks to be an eminently sensible way forward.

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