Michael CrossEditorMonday 20 February 2012

Cloud app store launches public sector IT buying revolution

The biggest change in IT procurement for a generation has been kicked off with the opening of an online catalogue of cloud-based services.

CloudStore is an catalogue of over 1,700 information and communications services from 255 suppliers available to the UK public sector, the Cabinet Office announced. All the services listed on the CloudStore are part of the G-Cloud procurement framework, so are immediately available for the public sector to procure and use.

The G-Cloud strategy aims to save £3.2bn of the governments annual £16bn spend on IT.

In keeping with the government's "agile" philosophy for managing IT projects CloudStore has been launched as a pilot. "We're asking for your feedback so we can add to and improve it," the Cabinet Office said.

Services available through the system include:

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
Platform as a service (PaaS)
Software as a service (SaaS)
Specialist services such as configuration, management and monitoring.

Suppliers listed include some very familiar names - Atos, BT, Capita as well as Google Ireland Ltd (offering among other products Google Maps API) and Microsoft Ireland with the company's Azure cloud storage system.

The government's own FCO Services trading fund offers security, vetting and assurance services. However analyst TechMarketView estimated that about 50% of the names of the list were SMEs.

Supplier Jadu has put its digital forms and data capture product and its mobile web application network in the list of products and services. Chief executive Suraj Kika said: "Millions of pounds have been spent on outsourcing deals with large IT services companies for web solutions that can otherwise be implemented quickly and easily by SMEs in the cloud, SMEs like Jadu can deliver faster, cheaper and more secure solutions, enabling Government to innovate and deliver services much faster.

 "CloudStore represents a revolution in how the public sector buys software and services," said Kika. "This bold move has potential to showcase the UK as a global leader in online service delivery, providing the procurement culture in government evolves to take advantage."

 Jadu's Universe Forms product is currently used for online forms on the Directgov website as well as scores of local authorities across the UK.

According to the site, using CloudStore "is really simple". It warns againsg attempting to run a mini-competition between suppliers - "these are commodity services and the CloudStore contains all the information required to select from the suppliers that best fit your needs".

If an organisation uses the Government eMarket Place, or has internal procurement procedures, you should use those routes to purchase the item. The products and services in the CloudStore will all be available on the Government eMarket Place.

CloudStore was built by a Guildford-based SME, Solidsoft, in four weeks. It is hosted on Microsoft Azure. The company was also responsible for the Tell Us Once website developed by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Industry watchers praised the innovation for speed and transparency, but raised several potential concerns. Tola Sargeant of TechMarketView said that CloudStore "is designed very much as a 'catalogue' for commodity products - it's difficult to compare companies on the basis of anything but price. It will undoubtedly drive much faster adoption of cloud services, provide greater visibility for SMEs, lead to a more competitive market and save the government money in the long term. But in the short term, my concern is whether some of the smaller suppliers on the framework have the capability to services required reliably at volume."