The Cabinet Office has confirmed that the cloud will be mandated as the first choice for all new IT purchases in government, as part of moves to push more departments into using commodity cloud services.
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The announcement comes as the third G-Cloud supplier framework goes live. Some 708 companies are on the new framework, including 368 firms new to G-Cloud, with 80% of all suppliers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said the Cabinet Office.
Larger players such as system integrator TCS have joined the framework, although cloud giants Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google are still notably absent.
Under the "public cloud first" policy, promoting the use of public cloud over community or hybrid cloud, as recently indicated by G-Cloud programme director Denise McDonagh, departments will remain free to choose an alternative to the cloud if they can demonstrate that it offers better value for money.
The move signals a more aggressive stance by the Cabinet Office in pushing more departments down the cloud route, as many have being criticised for showing resistance to the new model.
Read more about the G-Cloud here
The government aims to get 50% of all new IT spend to go through the G-Cloud by 2015, with claims that the CloudStore catalogue is already saving some departments up to 90% in IT spend.
McDonagh said the policy would give added impetus for Whitehall and the wider public sector to move in this direction: “Sales from G-Cloud are rising steadily, with cumulative spend now over £18m – two-thirds of it with SMEs. This is still small relative to overall government IT spend and the transition to widespread purchasing of IT services as a commodity won’t happen overnight."
Joe Dignan, analyst at Ovum said the public cloud first policy could be a game-changer.
"The default position of the public sector is to be risk averse, which is, to some extent, the right position to take with some of the data that it deals with. However, there is a mass of data that would work perfectly well in a public cloud model and, from now on, public sector CIOs, particularly those in central government, will have to justify why they do not adopt this model," Dignan said.
Sarah Burnett, head of NelsonHall's public sector outsourcing research programme said: "Cloud first is the right way to go. Cloud is being integrated into more and more IT offerings and the government is going to have cloud through its suppliers, one way or another. All cloud options should be considered at all levels."
However, former G-Cloud head Chris Chant has said more could be achieved with the G-Cloud if greater investment was pumped into the “woefully underfunded” programme.
Chant told Computer Weekly that the Cabinet Office originally promised to fund the equivalent of 20 full-time staff for the project, but currently the G-Cloud team consists of just five people, most of whom are borrowed from other departments.