Memset blasts BT over PSN Protected deployment delays at Surrey datacentre

IaaS provider turns attention to closing down more public sector deals now PSN Protected network is finally in place

Memset has blamed BT for holding up the “go live” date of its IL4-capable datacentre, following numerous delays during the deployment of a secure Public Services Network (PSN) Protected connection to the site. 

The public-sector focused hosting provider completed work on the £1.8m facility in Cranleigh, Surrey, in July 2014. It was designed to deliver public cloud services to government organisations dealing with highly sensitive data.

Memset needed a PSN connection to the site to achieve this, and, in November 2012, set about finding a telecommunications company capable of supplying one.

The PSN was designed to replace the GSi/GCSX Government Secure Network to provide all public-sector organisations with access to a single network to make it easier for them to share resources.

Having access to a PSN Protected connection, in particular, was essential for Memset, as it allowed customers to share their IL3-classified data with the firm.

Kate Craig-Wood, managing director of Memset, said the company ran into problems when it struggled to find a PSN network provider that could do this.

“Although the message from the Cabinet Office was that the PSN is up and running and anyone could buy it, we couldn’t find anyone who would sell it to us,” she said.

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Eventually, the firm settled on BT, only to encounter problems when it came to agreeing a price for the deployment, which Craig-Wood described as being an “incredibly painful process”.

“BT didn’t know what to charge because it hadn’t been approached by a private-sector organisation asking for this service before,” said Craig-Wood.

“It made negotiations very difficult, because we didn’t have other suppliers we could play off each other, which wasn’t our expectation of what this mature market would be like,” she said.

Similar hold-ups ensued when it came to deploying the networking technology, but Craig-Wood admitted there were other problems around how the PSN scheme was being operated that may have worked against what BT was trying to achieve.

“Some of the stalling on BT’s side was because the service we were asking for was not ready, but even now we're continuing to have big problems with simple things,” she said.

“It’s been a very frustrating and slow process, because all of our technology has been here, ready and waiting, but we do have it up and running now.

“We have customers lined up, and it’s now a process of going back to them and closing down those deals. Some of them we’ve been working with for a long time,” she added.

Computer Weekly contacted BT for a response to this story, but was still awaiting a response at the time of publication.

Despite the delays, the company is pressing ahead with plans to build a second, similarly connected facility, and is currently scouting for prospective sites. This is in spite of whispers the government might be planning to discontinue the PSN Protected network later down the line.

“I’ve been told by senior people involved in PSN there can only be one PSN,” said Craig-Wood. “I don’t imagine they would turn it off, they’d just say they don’t want new users going on to it.”

However, this could be averted as the number of customers relying on the connection grows, she added.

Even so, if the network is getting discontinued, it won’t be the end of the world, she said.

“If they try to move us away from it, that means we’ll end up with a load of government organisations paying for point-to-point encrypted links over the Public Services Network to achieve the same end result, which is a bit daft.”

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