Monday, June 22, 2009

More Details on UK Government's Cloud Strategy

In a followup post on the CCIF list, John Suffolk (UK Governments CIO) has further outlined his Cloud Strategy for the UK government.

The strategy has ten strands:

1. Standardise and simplify the desktop. Stop reinventing the design wheel, commoditise what should be commodity. Drive down price, drive up usability, capability, quality

2. Standardise, rationalise and simplify the plethora of networks. Build with the telecommunications industry the “Public Sector Network (PSN). An open market approach to joined-up secure networking for the Public Sector. Secure, ubiquitous, service model based and a price some 30% lower than we pay today.

3. Rationalise the data centre estate. Most are outsourced but they are in scope. Reduce from the central government 130+ to c9-12. Design a data centre eco system that is scalable, secure, green and economical.

4. Deliver against the Open source, open standards and reuse strategy I published in February. Buy at the “crown” not at an individual public body; treat proprietary software the same as open source (as in it should be available to all Public Servants); level the price comparison so full entry and exist cost to use the software must be taken into account.
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Surrounding those four elements are two “wrapper” strategies:

5. Green IT: For each of the elements detailed above they have a Green IT wrapper. I published this strategy in June 2008. You can read it at Each of the elements must conform to our Green IT strategy.

6. Information Security and Assurance: We published a National Information Assurance Strategy in June 2007 and the Data Handling Requirements in June 2008. Together with the Security Planning Framework that was published a few months ago form the basis for our information security requirements. I chair the Information Assurance Delivery Group and are accountable for helping Public Bodies conform to theses requirements, so security is uppermost in my mind.

This is where Government Cloud or “G-Cloud” comes in. With the elements detailed above we can begin to start the design and thinking about the establishment of a UK onshore, private G-Cloud. In essence infrastructure as a service, middleware / platforms as a service and software as a service. In relation to Saas I can’t see any reason why we couldn’t establish a Government Application Store (“G-AS” for want of a better code).

These six strategic elements have four other supporting strategies:

7. Shared Services: This is about ensuring that wherever possible we share everything... not just HR, Finance etc, but architectures, designs, solutions, people etc. We have moved from few users of shared back office services 3 years ago to many hundreds of thousands. The G-Cloud moves this thinking forward so rather than departments hosting a shared service for others, the applications are put into the cloud and saas kicks in.

8. Reliable Project Delivery. This is all about starting the right projects, executing them to successful completion and crucially delivering the social outcomes and business benefits. We have already made substantial progress in ensuring central government departments utilise portfolio management and best in class benefits realisation processes.

9. Supplier Management. Central Government is c65% outsourced and therefore having professional skills to deal with suppliers and having the most appropriate relationship with them is important. In this supporting strategy we have already worked with the ICT trade association, Intellect, to add additional tools to help the procurement process as well as implementing a Common Assessment Framework where assessment are made of projects undertaken by suppliers against a Common Assessment Framework! All the projects for a particular supplier are aggregated together to give insight into strengths and weaknesses.

Action plans are then developed. The suppliers also provide feedback on the client in a similar way.

10. Professionalising IT Enabled business change. Last but very much not least, the bedrock in fact, is growing the knowledge, skills and experience of our IT Professionals for which I am the Governments Head of Profession. We have about 50,000 IT professionals in the Public Sector. This strategic strand focuses on using the Skills Framework for the Information Age as a competency model for our ICT professionals. It is about personal growth and capability.

So in as few words as I can get it, this is the ten strategic strands we are following. They all work together and are all driven via the UK Government CIO Council. Some are more advanced than others, and clearly sitting beneath these strands is a whole lot more work and detail.

The posts also talked about language and getting that right and consistent. I couldn’t agree more. I seem to spend a fair amount of my time doing two things: firstly acting as a marriage guidance counsellor – bringing parties together; separating them when they are fighting; getting them to use the same words to mean the same things etc. The second thing is one of dating agent – someone has a problem and I date them with someone who has a solution. Key thing about language here is that we tend to apply a lot of labels to our problem and the solution provider uses a different set of labels for their solution. There is no easy fix to the language issue, but the more we talk, and listen (in at least equal quantities) the better.

Someone asked the question is the 2mbps a barrier. I can’t see any reason why. If we look at what many people do in their day jobs they don’t need 2mbs today. UK Government online transactions have increased enormously over the last 3 years as almost all services went online. The speed hasn’t been a barrier so far.

The final point was to my question about the Government Application Store (“G-AS”). The Public Sector will own many computer applications. To get full value, these could be moved into the G-AS. I think the Apple App Store is truly innovative and again for me creating something similar has attractions of speed, simplicity, innovation, cost effectiveness etc. I am still mulling over the points on certification of apps on the basis of if I can secure the infrastructure (and run the app in a virtualised world to protect the rest of the cloud), and the commercial model is say saas, if it doesn’t work should we care?

One final question for the time being. We are at the early stages of our thinking as you can see from my mutterings. Would it be possible to design a Government Cloud and a Government Application Store in a web 2.0 environment bringing in communities to detail the requirements, think though the issues, the designs and solutions etc?

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