CloudStore: who's going to use it?
CloudStore: who's going to use it?
Is there going to be a rush to use the government's new procurement channel for cloud computing services? Mark Say takes a rough measure of the early demand
The government must be pleased with the early reactions to the launch of CloudStore. While there may be a few grumbles about specific suppliers not being on the procurement framework for cloud services, most of the comments have been positive and emphasised its potential for the public sector to save money.
But it leaves open a question of who is going to use it and what kind of take-up there is going to be over the next few months. Public authorities have still been running formal procurements for infrastructure or software-as-a-service, and it may be that while many agree it's a great idea, far fewer will be in a hurry to make use of CloudStore.
While it has been a central government initiative, there is a view that there is more potential for use in local government. Phil Pavitt, chief information officer at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), says his department was party to its design, but is in no hurry to rush in with business.
He says the prime appeal for most buyers is that it provides a route for picking up small applications, and using them for a limited length of time. "How big departments are going to use it has not been fully thought through," he says, adding that he is not against the idea but that it is not yet clear how it will work.
He is confident enough to say CloudStore will probably be used for some of HMRC's periphery areas, and suggests that the more immediate potential is in infrastructure. "What I find interesting is that it has some cloud infrastructure stuff on there," he says. "I'm beginning to wonder that for some of our small areas we could put stuff up quickly, use it for three or four months, then take it down."
He suggests that local, rather than central government will make more use of the channel.
While this could be the case, it does not necessarily mean that local authorities will hurry to use CloudStore for the relevant services. Just days before it was opened, Aylesbury Vale district council posted a tender in the Official Journal of the European Union for finance, procurement, HR and payroll systems, with a preference for a software-as-a-service solution that could be shared with other councils.
John Barter, the council's business project manager, says the decision was down to timing and not knowing quite what CloudStore would have to offer.
"We've been looking at the procurement of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution for nine to 12 months, and for various reasons were looking at opportunities to bring in other councils at the same time," he says. "When we published the notice CloudStore was not available, but I've seen that some players are not on CloudStore who could potentially meet our needs, more so than the larger players. Other suppliers of ERP have not participated in the G-Cloud framework.
"We felt that for where we were at that time it was better to tender, but six months down the line it could change."
He says that using CloudStore is a possibility for the council in the future, although he is keen, given Aylesbury's relatively small size, to see more SMEs on the framework.
If there is an official line from the local government IT community it comes from Socitm, which has issued a statement welcoming the launch and saying it will work with the Cabinet Office to promote the use of CloudStore.
Martin Ferguson, Socitm's head of policy, says that short term take-up is likely to be focused on generic functions such as email and storage, but that for it to reach its full potential there has to be work on adding more service specific applications.
"It depends on where they are in their existing contracts, but there is a growing level of interest, he says. "It's been promoted particularly by Tonini Ciuffini's (the head of information assets at Warwickshire county council) work as a foundation delivery partner.
"But we believe there is a lot of work to be done to populate CloudStore with products and services that will be of interest in the local public services environment. We're discussing with the G-Cloud team how we can help to build that service."
He suggests that everyone involved regards it as a work in progress, and that as it moves forward there will be increasing take-up.
This indicates that it will need some more in the store and a degree of familiarity before the service really takes off. Phil Pavitt sums up what needs to be done before everyone fully understands the potential: "You have to see these things, begin to use them, then find out."