Cloud computing for the public sector
Whoa there! How did we get to the G-Cloud - I don't even remember the A through to F-Clouds
Rest easy, cowboy. The 'G' stands for government and the G-Cloud will be a cloud computing platform designed to host all of the software used by the public sector.
This G-Cloud will consist of about 12 virtualised datacentres that will be linked to all public sector organisations by a secure network.
The idea is that public sector organisations will eventually access all of their software from the G-Cloud.
Why's that useful then?
For one thing it could save taxpayers a lot of money. The G-Cloud will play an important role in helping Whitehall realise its goal of trimming the £16bn that the public sector spends on IT every year.
How can you save money by building a new infrastructure?
Basically it's through economies of scale. Whitehall and its non-department public bodies alone rely on 130 datacentres to supply their IT services. If you include local councils, police forces, health trusts, and the myriad other public sector bodies, then the number of datacentres runs into the hundreds.
On top of that there are more than 10,000 software packages and services running on these datacentres.
The aim of the G-Cloud is to get rid of the majority of these datacentres and separate software packages and to end the proliferation of unnecessary software and hardware across the public sector.
The recent Government ICT Strategy estimates that the G-Cloud could eventually deliver IT services to the public sector using just 12 datacentres.
The strategy predicts the public sector could save £300m each year by consolidating its datacentres.
How will it work?
A major role of the G-Cloud will be to host the Government Application Store (G-AS).
G-AS will host applications that are used by many different organisations throughout the public sector, such as email and VoIP clients or HR and ERP apps.
Delivering these applications from the G-Cloud will mean the public sector no longer has to purchase and support hundreds of separate versions of the same applications.
The applications, which would be screened and accredited before being hosted on the G-Cloud, would be made available on a pay-per-use basis.
Further savings to the cost of licensing software will be made possible thanks to the large number of people who would access apps through the G-Cloud. Organisations will be able to take advantage of a cross-public sector software licence that is assigned to the Crown and transferable across the public sector. Talks are already taking place with major software makers about putting these licences in place.
The Cabinet Office estimates that the G-AS will cut £500m per year from the public sector IT bill from 2020.
Prototype versions of the G-AS are already being built on existing cloud platforms, such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon EC2, for public sector organisations to try out.
A suggested structure for the G-AS is that the apps would be accessible through browsable menus and grouped under managed services, common services, utility services and custom services.