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GDS testing open source technologies for use in a 'Platform as a Service'

09/09/15

The Government Digital Service is testing two open source technologies for use in a ‘Platform as a Service’ system underpinning Whitehall’s move to digital services, the GDS’s head of infrastructure has explained in a new blog.

GDS-400x116A post by technical architect Anna Shipman and head of infrastructure Carl Massa sets out an ambition to challenge the system under which each department procures and runs bespoke cloud hosting services for each service or requirement.

“Teams all over government can end up duplicating work that’s already been done elsewhere,” they say, citing the burdens of procurement and accreditation. “That means spending time on areas that aren’t their speciality, such as application monitoring or log aggregation, which stops teams from focusing on their areas of expertise. It also leads to a lot of time searching for people with expertise in this area to hire.”

GDS is moving to establish a shared hosting platform, enabling departments to cut the costs and complexity of creating digital services by providing one major piece of the essential infrastructure. Any shared hosting service will keep services separate and business owners will remain fully in control of their services, the authors explain, adding that GDS would run the service on multiple public clouds in order to spread risk and retain price competition.

It has looked around and found that “no existing departmental solution meets all the needs we’ve identified”, the blog says, so it’s “evaluated several open source and commercial options, and we’ve built a prototype and shown it to potential users”. Having tested the basic model, the team is now undertaking a “detailed comparison of two open source PaaS technologies” – which should be complete by the end of November.

Meanwhile, in a bid to move forward the ‘open policymaking’ and transparency agendas, the chief technology officer’s team has published a set of Open Document Format (ODF) guidance explaining how to produce documents that meet the approved ‘ODF1.2’ standard. Although aimed at “buyers and implementers of ODF 1.2 within government organisations,” the Government Technology Team wrote in a blog, the guidance “should be useful for anyone wanting to know how to implement ODF in their organisation.”

To ensure that people inside and outside the Civil Service can read government documents and, when appropriate, edit them, the government announced a year ago that all departments would conform to the ODF1.2 standard. But the blog recognises that “for many departments that change requires a big shift in their approach towards choosing office productivity solutions. The manual provides a balance of information to help technology leaders with technical, organisational and user needs.”

Pictured: Government Digital Service | licensed under Open Government Licence v3.0

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