PSN and G-cloud prove major advantages for UK public sector, says HMRC

HMRC has benefited by centralising data storage systems on public cloud and adopting public services network (PSN) strategy

HMRC has benefited from centralising its data storage systems on the public cloud and by adopting the public services network (PSN) strategy, Andrew Bull, director of delivery and operations in information management services at HMRC, has said.

Speaking at Cloud World Forum 2013, Bull said the government’s PSN and G-Cloud programme has provided a major advantage for UK public sector organisations such as the HMRC.

PSN, established in 2008, is a government strategy to unify the public sector’s network infrastructure to increase efficiency and reduce expenditure.

About 30 companies – including BT, Vodafone, Cable and Wireless, Virgin Media Business and Siemens Communications – are listed as suppliers of ICT services to the UK public sector under the PSN framework contract.

In 2012, HMRC signed a contract with Skyscape and became the first major government department to use the G-Cloud for storage services. The G-Cloud services are deployed over the PSN, making HMRC the first government organisation to deploy cloud over the PSN.

“In the last couple of years, our IT failure has dropped by 90%,” Bull said.

Prior to its public cloud infrastructure and PSN adoption, HMRC struggled with a large IT estate featuring 4,493 datacentre servers, 78,305 laptops, 6,612 laptops, more than 1,100 interfaces and 344 million email transactions in a year.

The cloud storage, deployed on Skyscape, has helped HMRC consolidate its IT, increasing efficiency and improving front-line services.

Power efficiency gains

It has also helped the tax collection authority to reduce carbon emissions and save costs on power and energy.

While re-evaluating its legacy IT infrastructure, HMRC’s IT team conducted an audit of its datacentre power consumption and its carbon emissions. 

“We found that our air-conditioning units to cool datacentre facilities were pretty inefficient,” Bull said.

With centralised public cloud storage, HMRC yields a saving of £750,000 every year on energy costs and has reduced the datacentre maintenance tasks too, he said.

Another problem HMRC was facing with its old infrastructure was the ageing file and printer servers (FAPs). 

“Our FAPs were about six to seven years old and backing up data was becoming problematic,” Bull said.

“The easiest thing to do would have been to simply stick additional new servers but the failure rate kept growing and we wanted a long-term efficient solution for it.”

So it opted for cloud services.

Flexibility and savings on the network

As for prior to using PSN, HMRC’s network infrastructure was inflexible, expensive, complex and was limiting collaboration and sharing across the organisation, Bull explained.

“Using PSN proved cheaper and we no longer have WAN infrastructure to worry about,” Bull said. And the IT team has so far only finished 20% of its total PSN roll-out.

But the IT had to overcome some public cloud concerns before embracing it last year. 

“There was a lack of understanding around G-cloud and PSN; there were concerns about hosting data remotely; and there was a lot of public interest around where people’s sensitive data were stored,” Bull said.

But cloud for public sector is here and its benefits outweigh risks, he said.

HMRC is now working at its future cloud roadmap and is assessing how it could move other applications and workloads on to a public cloud infrastructure.

G-Cloud’s second framework really made it easy for HMRC to adopt public cloud services, Bull concluded.

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