The Cabinet Office is to hand Whitehall a "public cloud first" policy, mandating departments to consider public cloud services the main channel of their IT spending.
Speaking at a roundtable event organised by Salesforce.com, G-Cloud programme director Denise McDonagh said: “There is a general acceptance that we should be doing a public cloud first policy.
“A public cloud first policy will be an essential tool to move government to commodity buying.”
McDonagh could not give a specific date, but said the Cabinet Office is working on a policy.
Cloud is already part of the checklist departments have to go through before they get the green light for new IT spending, through the Cabinet Office’s central spending controls.
Government has set a target of 50% for all new IT spend to go through the G-Cloud by 2015. So far, more than £7m of the central government’s multi-billion-pound IT spend has gone through the programme.
But McDonagh said that amount was already much higher when yet-to-be invoiced work and pipeline orders were taken into account.
“In the Home Office we’ve done £6m of work through the G-Cloud this year,” she said.
“We are inundated with organisations coming to us to help through the G-Cloud journey.
“We are locked into contracts in place, most with what Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude would term ‘the oligopoly’. In 2014/2015 those will end, at that point we will see a significant move towards signing smaller contracts.
“I am seeing 50-90% savings by adopting cloud. That is for the total cost of ownership.”
In response to comments from former G-Cloud head Chris Chant that the G-Cloud programme is still woefully underfunded, McDonagh said plans were underway to grow the team. She said educating departments about cloud was a key driver in increasing uptake.
Overcoming 'old guard' resistance
Vivek Kundra, vice-president at Salesforce.com, was responsible for pushing through a cloud first cloud policy in America as former US CIO. Also speaking at the event, Kundra said the challenges in adopting cloud in the US were about overcoming the "old guard" resistance to new ways of working.
“We took that head-on and said: ‘Great, let’s have an intellectually honest debate about security,'” he said.
He said the exponential growth in the government’s datacentres, from 432 in 1998 to 2094 led to less secure systems and under utilisation, with just 27% of capacity being used.
“Just because government is operating it, doesn’t necessarily make it secure,” he said.
Kundra said the savings involved was a “no-brainer”.
“We identified $5bn in savings shifting to cloud computing,” he said.
Holding public-sector CIOs to account
Kundra said the department took an aggressive approach to pushing cloud adoption, by creating an "IT dashboard" site, with a photo of each government CIO next to an update of the number of IT projects for which were responsible, how many were going to schedule and their total cost.
“After that, one agency saw 45 projects halted and four terminated,” he said. “Officials should be held accountable.”
Kundra said the initiative led to $3bn in savings over six months.
Government is currently at the same point with cloud as it was with email in 1995, he said.
“People treat it as a mysterious new technology. If you want to see the future, look how SMEs operate, they wouldn’t build their own [systems] but provision them online as a service,” Kundra said.