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CCS strikes deal with Google Cloud in bid to boost competition in public sector cloud market

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has struck a deal with Google Cloud as part of a drive to boost competition in the UK’s public sector cloud computing market.

The move follows the launch of CCS’s “one government cloud strategy”, which seeks to establish a coordinated approach to the procurement of cloud services across Whitehall.

But sources close to the project told NS Tech that the decision to strike agreements directly with cloud providers was motivated by concerns about a lack of competition in a market that has been dominated by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

In recent years AWS has secured more than £100m in public sector deals through the government’s Digital Marketplace, while Google – one of its biggest rivals – has not won any.

Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, Google will offer public sector organisations a discount based on aggregated cloud demand. Buyers will be invited to take up a range of Google’s cloud services, including application modernisation and development, AI, analytics and collaboration solutions.

Although Google Cloud’s work in the UK public sector space is nascent – the vendor has not yet any work through the Digital Marketplace – it hopes the new deal will mark a turning point in its relationship with civil service buyers.

“This is a significant milestone for us, as we see the results of our focused investment in cloud services and solutions primed and tailored for the public sector,” said Mark Palmer, European public sector lead at Google Cloud. “The UK public sector is a major focus for Google Cloud, and this is an opportunity to further support Her Majesty’s government in their digital transformation.”

CCS will hope that its new One Government Cloud Strategy will clear up confusion surrounding Whitehall’s approach to public cloud computing. In October last year, CCS’s technology director Niall Quinn told NS Tech that the Government Digital Service (GDS) was planning to revise its “cloud first” policy to “cloud smart” or “consider cloud first” when new guidance was published this year. But just a week later, GDS published a blogpost contradicting Quinn’s remarks, saying the policy was “here to stay”. One source close to the work said there had been “turf wars” between CCS and GDS over the policy.

Simon Hansford, the chief executive of UKCloud, which works with Google Cloud, welcomed the agreement between CCS and Google. “It’s great to see more diversity in the market; it hasn’t been there to date, but it needs to be there,” he told NS Tech. “The public sector cloud computing market has become a bit of an oligopoly.”

AWS, the market leader in the global public cloud market, has dominated government cloud procurement in the UK and has hired a number of senior government technology leaders, including the former national technology adviser Liam Maxwell, who had played a key role in guiding Whitehall’s approach to tech. Microsoft, which is seeking to catch up with AWS in the cloud space and is also a major suppliers to government, struck a new deal with CCS in April.

CCS said in a press release that it was seeking to “open up the cloud services market to more suppliers to provide the best value and terms for public sector agencies investing in cloud technology”.  Simon Tse, the chief executive of CCS, added: “CCS provides commercial agreements which help organisations across the entire public sector save time and money on buying everyday goods and services. This MoU with Google Cloud unlocks large-scale business benefits for our customers, and demonstrates CCS’s role in helping the public sector serve UK citizens in more innovative ways.”