The G Cloud programme is the government’s effort to move away from an expensive and silo’d server centric estate that in 2009 comprised 90,000 components in central government alone. We, the UK, are after cost savings and an agility that will allow us the flexibility to take advantage of market and technological developments whilst creating a secure platform that will facilitate new and productive uses of data held by our masters on our behalf. Bit of a mouthful. My words really but also my interpretation of what I’m sure is an elongated brief.
Transport for London’s API that allows train locations to be published on Google maps is a good example of the use of public data made available through an API.
The G Cloud, relies on federated contributions from different government departments and is currently centred on a single pod at a SAVVIS data centre. This will of course grow as we progress towards the target 35% reduction in data centre costs. One unnamed department, far behind on the virtualisation curve, is expected to reduce its 800 servers to less than 80, 60 racks to 3.
The biggest problem we/they are going to have lies in the nature of governance imposed on government. There are procurement rules that preclude agility. Also contractors often amortise costs of a government contract over its ten year life (typical) and this is likely to mean that many departments are going to be tied in for some time before they can move onto the GCloud.
It was interesting to note that apparently 70% of government IT contracts are outsourced and because of this we don’t actually know what some of our services really cost (and therefore how much can be saved).
This is all just a bit of a preamble for me to say that the cloud market is a massive opportunity that merits getting involved early. A global market size over the next ten years $3trillion is mooted. £150Bn over the next three years in the UK!?
The biggest slice of the pie is clearly going to go to the big infrastructure players. An example is Warwickshire County Council piloting the use of gmail and Google Apps with 4,000 users. 4,000 is seen as just the tiny beginning for the UK as a whole. However in order to be able to play at scale the global cloud players have to offer homogenous and inflexible business terms to their customers. A strange paradox in an environment that has at its core technical and commercial flexibility.
So a Google or an Amazon is unlikely to want to offer specific Service Level Agreements to individual customers. Nor with they want to allow them to tailor apps that are global in distribution to the specific user interface of, say a government department or a private business in a single country.
This is therefore where smaller regional players come into view and where the action is likely to be for most of us. Amazon quotes an uptime of 99.95% for its cloud services. Turning that around that’s 4.38 hours of downtime a year. Not something that a business conducting high volume financial transactions online is going to want to sign up to (for example) but certainly a specialist B2B provider might offer better terms.
Despite the global financial uncertainty that we hear about everywhere now seems very much to be the time to be investing in this cloudy future. Customers won in the next year or two are going to provide real value to a business in the longer term. Look out for invitations to the Timico data centre opening in January. You are all invited 🙂