Governments everywhere are starting to realize the benefits of cloud computing, and the UK is one nation that is leading this charge. This week the government launched CloudStore, an online catalogue that allows public sector customers to select from more than 1,700 information and communications services from some 250 suppliers. Selections are organized into four categories: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and specialist services such as configuration, management and monitoring.
“The launch of CloudStore is an important milestone in the Government’s ICT strategy to deliver savings and an IT system fit for the 21st century,” said Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. “Simply stated, purchasing services from CloudStore will be quicker, easier, cheaper and more transparent for the public sector and suppliers alike.”
CloudStore was built by British vendor Solidsoft in just two weeks and is hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud. According to the Cabinet Office, which oversees government IT strategy, about half of the suppliers are small-to-medium-sized firms, although the vendor listing also includes big names like Atos, CSC, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, and Rackspace.
CloudStore is part of a the G-Cloud initiative, a private government cloud computing infrastructure that is expected to slash £3.2bn off the government’s £16bn annual IT spend. According to the project website, “the G-Cloud is an iterative programme of work … which will deliver fundamental changes in the way the public sector procures and operates ICT.”
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude stated:
“By creating a competitive marketplace, the G-Cloud framework will constantly encourage service providers to improve the quality and value of the solutions they offer, reducing the cost to taxpayers and suppliers. And it gives SME suppliers of niche products the same opportunities as bigger organisations supplying services.
“Using cloud solutions that have already been secured and accredited will almost always be less expensive, and we will only pay for what we use. We will also know from the outset the cost of the product and, importantly, the cost of exit from contracts that will be no longer than 12 months.”
The Cabinet Office, which oversees IT in the UK, emphasized the benefits to public sector organizations, who will be able to purchase “off-the-shelf” IT services on a “pay-as-you-go” basis rather than having to develop their own systems.
Right now, the CloudStore is a pilot program. The next step, according to the G-Cloud team, will assure and accredit all these products and services. They’re also planning to re-open the framework for new suppliers and products in March/April 2012.