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In-depth

G-Cloud: A quick guide

Met Police will move to Azure after signing two-year deal with New Signature

G-Cloud is the UK government's initiative to bring departments and suppliers into closer contact with each other, making it easier for public bodies to adopt cloud services. Here we discuss what this means for the channel and bring you the latest news from the project.

G-Cloud news

07/09/2018

Met Police will move to Azure after signing two-year deal with New Signature

New Signature has signed a two-year deal with the Metropolitan Police, in a move that will see the Microsoft reseller begin migrating the police force's IT services to the Redmond firm's Azure cloud platform.

As reported by Computing.co.uk, the contract was signed through the G-Cloud framework and originally formed part of the Metropolitan Police's 'One Met Digital Policing Strategy 2017-2020' that was published back in February 2017.

The document announced that the force would "adopt public cloud offerings" as part of its new 'Cloud First' principle and that its own data centres would now be used for "specialised services".

The Met added that the new approach would ultimately cut overall costs and allow it to only pay for the capacity and facilities that it uses - whilst also offering flexibility and improved delivery of applications via the internet.

According to New Signature, the two-year deal is "one of the largest" G-Cloud procurements yet – but the reseller stopped short of revealing its value.

New Signature founder Dan Scarfe told Computer Reseller News that the deal marked a key milestone in the move away from global systems integrators (GSIs).

"They've been outsourced to the big GSIs for forever, but this time around they wanted to do something different and work with a smaller, boutique cloud provider and decided to go with us," he told the website.

"It's yet more validation that companies such as ours will thrive in this new world because we can deliver the agility and speed that these traditional organisations are now clamouring for and demanding."

What is G-Cloud?

G-Cloud is an initiative by the UK government to make it easier for public sector organisations to purchase information technology services.

The term ‘cloud’ is a slight misnomer as the range of IT services span Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Later iterations have also added Specialist Cloud Services that aim to support the core trio with services around cloud migration and support.

G-Cloud has entered its sixth iteration since its 2012 launch and has undergone a change of platform to help meet demand and improve accessibility. Now hosted as part of the governments’ Digital Marketplace, the initiative has around 1850 suppliers and just short of 20,000 services on offer.

G-Cloud has lots of worthy sounding aims but the three that stand out are to deliver faster business benefits, and reduce both costs and the dependency of larger IT vendors that have had an unhealthy stranglehold on contacts – and a not too stellar record on actually delivering results.

G-Cloud is an evolving framework with version 4 adding requirements to ensure that tenders are on an equal footing. Version 5 focused on improving the supporting documentation each supplier needs to produce to ensure that potential customers understand what they are buying.

The latest is version 6, with the move to the new platform, including new search and filtering functionality that claims to offer an easier set of questionnaire and submission forms for both buyers and sellers. Its aim is to standardise and refine the process on both sides to make it easier to successfully transact.

Who is it aimed at?

The list of failed IT projects in the public sector is pretty shocking – although the high-profile failures at DWP, probation service, NHS et al are in reality only a fraction of the huge number of ICT projects that are delivered successfully across the public sector.

However, over a certain size, every public sector projects needs to run through a complex procurement processes aimed to ensure probity, reduce risk and provide value for money. Considering that the public sector spends billions on ICT each year and up until recently less than 20 companies hovered up 80 percent of this spend, the G-cloud aims to allow smaller IT suppliers to enter this market. The theory is that competition in the market and innovators will drive down inflated costs while the controlled and standardised procurement process will mitigate risks of dealing with suppliers that cannot deliver the service as advertised.

In addition, the public sector has, historically, been less successful at drawing up contracts so the framework should stop smaller and less savvy public sector organisations from getting ripped off by ICT sharks.

How does it impact the market?

So the theory is grand: a well run and properly managed marketplace to allow the selling and buying of critical ICT services, which allows the public sector to save tax payer money while prompting suppliers to offer more value or better services. Has it been a success? Well like a good politician, the response could be, “it depends on how you define success”.

In terms of raw spending in G-cloud, it has had a slow start. By January of 2014, almost two years after launch, a lowly £92m had been spent within G-Cloud.  When compared to estimates from analysts at Kable that put public sector ICT spending in 2011/2012 at £13.8bn, G-cloud is a very small drop in a very large ocean. However, this is changing and over the course of a single year, this figure has nearly quadrupled.

Of its other stated aim, to level the playing field, G-Cloud has made a small impact. By mid-2013, 56 percent of total sales by value went to SME firms this has changed somewhat during 2014 with larger suppliers starting to win major projects that tip the scale by value if not volume. However, one of the biggest strengths of G-cloud is its reporting of projects and values which means that the dodgy and often botched ICT deliveries are less easy to sweep under the table.

The other important impact is that the G-Cloud has successfully delivered software-driven procurement tools that have simplified what was a previously complex and expensive process. The big boys of cloud software such as Amazon and Microsoft (but no Google…yet) have joined the party but thankfully for the channel, the framework in many ways shows up that smaller suppliers are capable of competing in terms of deliverables.

Points of interest

The sixth iteration of G-cloud will solidify the future of the service as viable route to the public sector market. Based on current growth curves, it may well pass the half-a-billion mark during 2015. However, central government is still the flag bearer which still validates the views of a 2013 survey that suggested 80 percent of local authorities have never heard of G-Cloud and to date, there are no accurate figures around how much G-cloud has actually saved for public sector procurement. There are now close to 2000 suppliers across the various parts of G-cloud but the largest projects are still coming from central government departments and landing in the laps of the old incumbent, and often well-connected in the lobby room, IT suppliers.

Channel Pro opinion

The bigger picture is that G-Cloud sits within the UK government Digital Strategy which it believes will generate savings of around £1.7bn each year through better use of IT and more internet accessibility between the state and citizens.

G-cloud in many way mirrors the maturity of wider cloud adoption. Even with all the aggressive analyst estimates of cloud adoption, ICT is still mostly on-premise in the private sector and the public sector is even more risk averse with more rules around procurement. G-cloud is a worthy idea and a brave attempt to make procurement an easier activity and, in theory, bring more competition into the market. This does seem to be working with SMEs now accounting for nearly half (48 percent as of Nov 2014) of cumulative sales within G-cloud. There are a number of hoops to jump through to qualify for the framework but it is not a huge hurdle for a mid-sized ICT supplier to achieve and, although still a cup rather than a trough, it is still a growing marketplace.

Over the next few years as cloud adoption increases and the first case studies around the success of G-cloud start to filter out into the press, the procurement framework might start to gain an unstoppable momentum. The future looks more positive but it is still worth taking G-cloud in context. The service is still less than four percent of total public sector ICT spend so channel partners aren’t going to completely revitalise their businesses overnight by joining G-cloud.

However, the requirements are minimal enough to make it a sensible option and the new Digital Marketplace is easy enough to join to make it a good prospect for a longer term strategy to engage with potential public sector clients.

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