G-Cloud breaks from IT supplier cartel

Suppliers for the government’s cloud computing service, G-Cloud, will be announced soon, with a rare break up of the ‘cartel’ of large suppliers.

Government procurement has been under fire for some time, with a committee of MPs recently lambasting the small group of large suppliers which frequently get the juicy contracts.

The supplier list, accredited by the government to offer a variety of cloud services to different departments and agencies, will demonstrate a more flexible approach.

Around 600 cloud companies are said to have tendered for a place on the accredited G-Cloud supplier list, with 250 making the final cut. Those that make the grade will be able to offer a range of cloud services such as platform as a service, software as a service and so forth.

TechEye spoke to Richard Davies, CEO of ElasticHosts, a UK cloud firm which will be offering computing power to departments via the G-Cloud CloudStore with its infrastructure as a service.

“Basically we rent virtualised computer capacity with a user interface where they can rent computing power by the hour,” Davies says. “Whereas they might have bought physical hardware, they can rent what they want from us when they need it.”

With the list of 250 suppliers to be published on Sunday, Davies highlighted the potential to shake-up the way government procures its IT.

“Government procurement has traditionally been a slow process, and one that has been dominated by a handful of very big suppliers that run multi-year projects with hundreds of people,” Davies told TechEye in an interview.

“I would like to think that G-Cloud will mean that departments will be able to buy much faster and much more cost effectively,” he continued, “and pick modern technology that they want from a pre-certified list, paying for exactly what they need.”

According to Davies, this will lead to a “much more responsive model of procurement”, as compared to the “traditional world of large five ten year government IT projects with large firms”.

There has been mounting pressure on the government to change the way that government has tended towards pricey contracts with the big firms.  This has lead to some high profile blunders like the seemingly never-ending NHS IT debacles.

Davies believes that while there is still room for large scale projects with single suppliers, in many cases it is not necessar:. “I think there are always going to be specific large projects that require a significant piece of work by a single contractor over a few years,” he said, “but there is an awful of IT in government that is much more qualified than that.”

“The technology you need to run a website for a local council department for example, there is a lot of it out there that is pretty standard that you don’t need to sign a large contract to get.

“What you see a small number of bug name firms signing expensicve multiyear contract and I am not convinced they have delivered value.”

Davies does not foresee G-Cloud’s nature leading to any major headaches.

“G-Cloud is not a specific service so is not like a NHS IT contract, it is a list of 250 suppliers which have been be accredited,” he said. “Government picks a list of suppliers which are already providing these services, and are now accredited for government.”

By breaking down the procurement of cloud services, rather than handing a project out to a contractor, it seems that the government may be able to avoid costly blunders.  However, the problem for G-Cloud is whether the civil service can break away from past procurement methods.

According to Davies, the real test will be in six months or a year when we can measure just how much has been done from services in the catalogue

Davies wonders if the various departments are actually going to start picking out services from the list and using that to drive down costs. “Certainly we hope it will be a ‘yes’,” Davies said, “and the people running G-Cloud will hope the answer is ‘yes’ too, we will just have to see six months down the line.”

One of the problems with government cloud computing has been the potential threat of security over highly confidential and sensitive information. Davies does not think that this will be a problem.

“There shouldn’t be concerns over security,” he said. “Obviously, there is information that you want to keep private, so every firm has had to be accredited for the level of security they can offer.  These levels will be on accreditation list.

“Any department with sensitive information should be able to pick suppliers with relevant security accreditation level.”

While Davies is not able to spill the beans on which other suppliers have made the cut for the final list, he reckons that we will still see some familiar faces.