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GDS to reveal new “consider cloud first” policy in early 2020

The Government Digital Service (GDS) plans to revise its “cloud first” policy to “cloud smart” or “consider cloud first” when new guidance is published early next year.

It emerged in May that the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and GDS were reviewing the original policy, which mandates central government departments to attempt to host all new technology in the public cloud.

During a workshop held over summer, CCS and GDS agreed to draw up revised rules for data storage procurement, alongside new guidance on the practical steps departments should take as they embark on digital transformation programmes.

Some critics have predicted that a move to water down the cloud first policy will result in a slower uptake of new technology in central government. But in an interview with NS Tech, Niall Quinn, the technology director of CCS, defended the decision.

“It’s an acknowledgement that public cloud first for everybody is not doable in the short to medium term,” he said. “We live in the real, real world. We think that most people are landing on a hybrid solution because there are lots of legacy departments who have pieces of kit and applications that are 40 years old.”

He added: “You need to acknowledge that [on-premise hosting] can still exist and there’s some on-prem for security reasons as well, but it’s on prem, some private and some public as well – that’s the more sensible solution.”

GDS and CCS are considering whether to name the new policy “cloud smart” or “consider cloud first”, but are leaning towards the latter.

CCS is also planning to spin out cloud hosting and cloud services from its flagship “G-Cloud” procurement framework. A new dedicated cloud framework is expected to go live in September 2020 and will allow departments to procure technology using five year, rather than two year, contracts.

Quinn has said that G-Cloud’s relatively short contracts mean that as departments make more purchases, “some would’ve been crushed by the sheer number of procurements” they would have to approve just to reissue existing contracts.

The new framework will also bring in new conditions for suppliers. “Cloud and software as a service are very different than standard [licenses],” said Quinn. “You don’t need to be so obsessed by the intellectual property because you’re not going to own it. You don’t need to be obsessed about things like step in rights […]. But we’d prefer the cloud providers to be a bit more mature around disaster recovery and business continuity.”

Niall Quinn is a keynote speaker at digitech19. Register here for your free place.