Crown Hosting Service kicks off with £70m procurement project

The Cabinet Office has started procurement for the new Crown Hosting Service to centralise datacentre hosting across central government

The Cabinet Office has started procurement for the new Crown Hosting Service (CHS), intended to consolidate much of the datacentre hosting currently in use across central government.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) will “aggregate government demand and source IT facilities and infrastructure services from suppliers”, according to a prior information notice published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

“The CHS will access smaller, pragmatic solutions and leverage the market to allow government to use more agile, efficient and better value-for-money commodity services,” it said.

The notice describes the requirements for a contract worth up to £70m to support multiple datacentres, initially with sufficient rack space to host up to 550 1U-sized servers, using suitable physical facilities with appropriate energy sources, cooling, connectivity and security.

The notice does not yet invite suppliers to bid, but instead starts a process of discussion with the market “to establish the most appropriate commercial models and contracting terms to deliver best value”.

“The scale of the proposed services is being determined through ongoing discussions with Departments and Executive Agencies. However, scalability will be a prerequisite of future demand and all suppliers should be able to provide capability above and beyond the initial requirements,” said the notice.

The initial scope of the service will be to cover “non-cloud” requirements, relating to “the creation of a non-cloud hosting services capability including the provision, installation, maintenance and operation of IT systems; datacentre LAN services; datacentre interconnectivity and the provision of datacentre facilities and equipment from at least two separate locations and available in multiple regions”.

Future requirements include provision of at least four regional datacentres with capacity for 3,750 1U servers, and further support for “cloud-ready” services.

“GDS remains committed to HM government's cloud-first policy. All new applications are expected to be cloud-ready. CHS will service existing HM government estate that cannot or has yet to migrate to the cloud,” said the notice.

Central government spent £1.6bn in the 2012/13 financial year in contracting for hosting services across Whitehall departments.

Computer Weekly reported in November 2013 that, of that amount, services to support facilities and infrastructure worth £700m were considered suitable for initial consolidation, with significant cost savings expected from such a plan.

“Consolidation and migration to a single Crown Hosting Service would result in savings of £530m by 2018/19, with the payback on the initial investment being achieved in less than two years,” said a GDS briefing paper seen by Computer Weekly at that time.

It is not clear from the tender notice what proportion of the £1.6bn hosting spend is covered by the latest initiative, but Computer Weekly has requested further details from the Cabinet Office.

Read more on Managed services and hosting services