Public Services > Central Government

Francis Maude expected to approve 'cloud first' policy

Charlotte Jee Published 06 March 2013

Policy would mean departments must consider cloud options before making new IT investments


Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude is due to report back soon regarding a 'cloud first' policy for central government departments.

If introduced, the policy would mandate central government departments to consider using cloud computing options first before making any new IT investments.

Speaking at a roundtable on cloud computing, G-Cloud programme director Denise McDonagh said, "There is now a general acceptance that we should have a cloud first policy".

The policy, which the Cabinet Office has been actively considering since the start of this year , would be implemented as part of the spend controls process, whereby all central government contracts with a lifetime value of above £5 million are subject to Cabinet Office approval.

If the cloud first policy is adopted, the spend controls process, which is overseen by government chief technology officer Liam Maxwell, would include an element where departments are asked to show they considered procuring through G-Cloud first before looking at any other option.

Vivek Kundra, who was responsible for setting up a cloud first policy in the US in 2010 during his previous tenure as US Federal CIO, admitted that he had faced challenges, but said that the policy was a "no-brainer" thanks to the huge savings it can offer.

Kundra, who is now's executive vice president of emerging markets, said that the main challenge was around security and dispelling concerns that cloud apps are not as secure as on-premise apps. However, he said he was honest with colleagues and addressed these issues 'head-on', adding that once people realised moving to cloud would not result in a drop in security levels, they supported the programme.

Kundra also said that transparency helped him drive the policy forward. He admitted, "I took a very aggressive approach. We created a dashboard which had the photographs of all departmental CIOs alongside all the projects they were presiding a public servant you have to remember you are spending taxpayers' money."

Although only £7.4m worth of sales have gone through G-Cloud so far, McDonagh said that this figure fails to take sales due to be invoiced into account, and masks that fact that the upcoming pipeline is 'huge'.

In particular, McDonagh said, the Home Office alone (of which she is IT director) is about to do about £6m of business through G-Cloud. Furthermore, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Home Office are believed to have already instituted a de facto 'cloud first' policy .

Both departments are currently considering whether to procure service integration and management (SIAM) services through the CloudStore, while the NHS Commissioning Board has confirmed it is planning to buy NHSmail 2 through G-Cloud .

McDonagh was keen to emphasise the potential savings that could be achieved by adopting a cloud first policy. She said, "In the work I'm doing, I'm seeing 50-90% savings by adopting cloud, in terms of the total cost of ownership", a point echoed by Kundra who said he saw similar levels of savings in the US.

However McDonagh admitted that the move to G-Cloud was being undermined by incumbent systems integrators (SIs) dropping their prices for certain services provided to central government departments to match those offered on the CloudStore.

She said, "I find people going to their current suppliers and saying 'I can get this from the G-Cloud for this amount of money' and the incumbent supplier says 'We will do it for the same amount'

"That makes me furious for two reasons. One, you [government departments] should be moving to a different way of buying and reducing your dependency on the big SIs. But it makes me more furious that an SI can either deliver that service a lot cheaper than they previously said or they are taking a loss.

"It's very bad behaviour. One of the conversations we're having with suppliers is that they have to behave as well."

Responding to calls by former G-Cloud director Chris Chant for greater investment in the G-Cloud programme, a representative said "hopefully the team will grow a little bit soon."

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