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G-Cloud (G-Cloud)

Published on: 29/04/2014
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G-Cloud provides an online CloudStore where public organisations can find different services offered by a large amount of suppliers that are part of the G-Cloud Framework Agreements.

Since the start of G-Cloud, five Framework Agreements have been launched. Any public body can purchase the services from the suppliers that are part of these Framework Agreements. The calls for the Framework Agreements have been widely publish, including on the OJEU. One of the major advantages of the use of Framework Agreement is that public organisations do not have to go through a competitive procurement process and instead can buy services from the CloudStore under the Framework Agreements.

One of the objectives of the G-Cloud Programme is to introduce the relevance of cloud commodity services to public bodies and the raise awareness as well as educate on the use and operations of these. The G-Cloud Programme therefore aims to “engage widely across public sector organisations and launch the ‘Cloud First’ initiative” as well as “develop and manage the transition plans, business change plan and communications plan / brand and marketing plan”.

In addition, the wide and varied landscape of ICT should be defined and managed. This is particularly important for the public bodies that will buy cloud commodity services on G-Cloud. They will thus be ensured that the ICT services are sufficiently mature and up-to-date and therefore have a vibrant market place where to buy services that are in line with the G-Cloud policies and technology standards.

Not only the types of services provided should be managed, but also transparent information on the performance, quality and price of services should be provided. The aim is to overcome the difficulty in comparing services on price, scope and quality due to the bespoke approach from government for the procurement of its ICT services.

Finally, as a number of core services will be provided, it is beneficial to provide these to public administrations only once or in a co-ordinated way. While in principle public bodies are responsible and accountable for the risks to the information for which they are an owner or custodian, there is a need to provide a pragmatic application of Information Assurance (IA) through these core services, including for example Identity Assurance and Management and Situational Awareness. IA Governance should therefore be established “to ensure the ability to carry out most of the assurance and accreditation work is done once, carried out well and then re-used, re-used, re-used”.

These objectives contribute to a shared approach to procurement of ICT and cloud commodity services, it encourages mutual learning among public bodies and provides a framework, platform and transparent tools for procurers to evaluate the best solution for their needs. At the same time appropriate assessment of the cloud commodity services’ maturity and availability of up-to-date services as well as assurance and accreditation is carried only once and shared among public sector bodies.

The G-Cloud Strategy mentions as one of the main benefits of the project the reduction of bureaucracy, costs and management overheads from the move towards commodity cloud versus custom applications and bespoke services.

The aim is to achieve such benefits through alternative procurement strategies. This includes a dynamic purchasing system, allowing any supplier who meets the criteria for provision of commodity services or solutions to be included, and central frameworks for commodity services (such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS)). These are expected to dramatically reduce infrastructure costs by enabling public bodies to adopt the standard G-Cloud Infrastructure as a Service.

Policy Context

The Cabinet Office published in 2011 the Government Cloud Strategy that sets out the UK Government’s vision for G-Cloud, the strategy, delivery and implementation. G-Cloud was established as an “ongoing and iterative programme of work which will enable the use of a range of cloud services, and changes in the way we procure and operate ICT, throughout the public sector”.

The G-Cloud strategy outlines the problems that G-Cloud aims to address related to the ICT estate that made it difficult to:

  • achieve large, cross government economies of scale;
  • deliver ICT systems that are flexible and responsive to demand in order to support government policies and strategies;
  • take advantage of new technologies in order to deliver faster business benefits and reduce cost;
  • meet environmental and sustainability targets;
  • allow government to procure in a way that encourages a dynamic and responsive supplier marketplace and supports emerging suppliers.

In order to tackle these problems, the strategy sets out a vision to:

  • provide an open, visible, commoditised and cost transparent marketplace, that is the first point of call for any public sector ICT requirement ;
  • create a shop window where all the relevant public sector ICT services can be found encouraging innovation, competition and new suppliers;
  • exploit pan-public sector purchasing
  • enable the IA and security community to have access to information related to the assurance and accreditation status of the service;
  • be a key enabler for collaborative procurement, including:
    • driving up supplier performance by providing an open feedback mechanism
    • facilitating re-use of a service to drive efficiency and cost savings.

To achieve a critical level of “understanding and awareness of the services and how to exploit, procure and operate them” a ‘Cloud First’ initiative was undertaken to “provide an introduction and education to cloud ICT services, but also support and guidance for purchasing and operating cloud based commodity services”.

In 2013, the government introduced the ‘Public Cloud First Policy mandate’, that mandates central government departments to consider public cloud first when procuring ICT and the wider public sector is strongly recommended to do so. Therefore, public organization should consider and evaluate potential cloud solutions before considering any other option. Central government departments are also require to develop transition plans, review and revise their IT portfolios and share their experience to help build a reference library of good practice.

Description of target users and groups

Stakeholders involved in the G-Cloud initiative are the Cabinet Office, the Government Digital Service, the Government Procurement Service, the Public Services Network (a logical network, based on industry standards, and a more open and competitive ICT marketplace at the heart of the UK public sector), Intellect (Intellect UK, today techUK, an association of companies and technologies in the UK) and Socitm (the professional body for people involved in the leadership and management of IT and digitally enabled services delivered for public benefit).

Description of the way to implement the initiative

An organisational structure was established for the delivery and implementation of G-Cloud, consisting of:

  • CIO Delivery Board: responsible for the successful adoption of cloud computing and commodity ICT by government;
  • G-Cloud Delivery Board: responsible for governing the programme, setting the overall direction, including the determination and ratification of the Programme’s business objectives, future vision, business case, and the sequencing strategy for delivering the components of the G-Cloud solution, including Data Centre Consolidation. The G-Cloud board and its working groups also ensure their strategies and plans are aligned with the other infrastructure strands of the Government ICT Strategy;
  • Cloud Services Group: responsible for the assessment and definition of effective service management and developing a commodity service management and operational model;
  • Security Working Group: responsible for the assurance and accreditation of commodity cloud services;
  • Commercial Working Group: responsible for the definition and establishment of an approach to commodity service purchasing that underpins the use of commodity products and services;
  • Data Centre Consolidation Project Board: responsible for consolidation, rationalisation and virtualisation of government and supplier owned data centres and the definition and implementation of the future government approach to data centre usage and provision.

In 2013 the G-Cloud programme transitioned from being a standalone programme to the Government Digital Service (GDS). The G-Cloud team, which notably ensures the development of the service, has grown from the initial 10 from October 2013, when GDS took over the project, to 27 people working on the combined G-Cloud and GDS framework team.

Technology solution

GDS took over the project in October in 2013, and had doubts as to whether the project was scalable. GDS are consequently working on the current code, which will be open source, in order to ensure that the service is scalable.

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

With G-Cloud, GDS are making it clearer, simpler and faster for the whole of the public sector to buy digital products and services when it needs to. They are helping create a pool of quality suppliers of all sizes, who work in agile ways, to supply and work with government.

G-Cloud therefore enables 4 types of savings:

  1. Published prices on the Cloud Store are transparent and comparable across providers. In general, buying products and services at lower prices;
  2. Reduced procurement costs for the buyer. The procurement of a service is done directly with the actual supplier under the framework agreements of G-Cloud, without the need for intermediaries.
  3. Benefits from adopting agile solutions
  4. Creating deflationary pressure in the wider market

GDS conservatively estimates that overall G-Cloud savings are at least 50% of spending although, in some cases, the savings can be as much as 90%.

Five G-Cloud Framework Agreements with suppliers have been established (Gi, Gii, Giii, G4 and G5), where a large number of services providers are included and their services are listed on the CloudStore. From the framework agreements public bodies can purchase services without having to go through a full competitive procurement process. The calls for these framework agreements were widely published, also through the OJEU on Tenders Electronic Daily. A total of 832 suppliers have joined the CloudStore across different frameworks.

On the G-Cloud website the sales information is published up to end of January 2014 based on monthly reports of invoiced sales provided to the Government Procurement Service (GPS) by all suppliers.

According to the most recent published figures (https://digitalmarketplace.blog.gov.uk/sales-accreditation-information/), the spend breakdown is as follows:

  • £154,635,951.79 - current total (ex VAT) of reported G-Cloud sales up to the end of 28 February 2014 (Gi, Gii, Giii and G4);
  • 60% of total sales by value and 60% by volume, from all reported G-Cloud sales to date, have been awarded to SMEs;
  • 78% of total sales by value were through Central Government; 22% through the Wider Public Sector;
  • 79% by volume, from all reported G-Cloud sales to date, were through Central Government; 21% through Wider Public Sector.

The detailed data for these latest figures has not yet been published. The latest detailed data (from 13 December 2013) (see: http://gcloud.civilservice.gov.uk/files/2012/06/G-Cloud-Total-Spend-13-12-13.csv at http://gcloud.civilservice.gov.uk/about/sales-information/) shows that:

  • A total of 212 suppliers have provided services;
  • A total of 336 public administrations (including Universities and University Hospitals) have bought services.

The project has therefore generated an enthusiastic response from suppliers, particularly SMEs, which had not previously had access to government. GDS has conducted initial user research which has encompassed the Digital Services Store and the CloudStore. Without a doubt there is a significant level of enthusiasm and dedication to helping the G-Cloud and Digital Services frameworks deliver on their potential.

It is also clear that there is more work to be done to help the tools do more to meet user needs and capitalise on known and accepted patterns of behaviour in digital. In order to deliver more fully on the potential, GDS are developing tools that will help the market itself to learn and grow. The initial focus will be on the G-Cloud set of products and service but GDS are working towards creating a single store which includes both the digital services and G-Cloud frameworks, as well as any future digital frameworks.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Larger than €10,000,000

Track record of sharing

GDS has seen considerable interest for the project, particularly from the United States and Australia.

Lessons learnt

  • As G-Cloud is a new service, which is part of a large transformation programme, there is need to raise awareness across the procurement community about its potential.
  • There is a need to regularly check the catalogue, in order to ensure that the services available are really cloud base.
  • It is important to make the process simple for suppliers, and particular SMEs, which will only take part in the project if the application process is very simple.
  • The end solution needs to be as simple as possible, which was not the case when the solution was launched.
Scope: National