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Government to open public sector data centres



Cabinet Office does deal with Ark to set up Crown Hosting Data Centres

The government has set up a new data centre service for the public sector under a joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Ark Data Centres.

Named Crown Hosting Data Centres, it will provide public authorities with a range of data hosting services and is projected to save up to £105 million from aggregated buying, and by offering the services on a 'pay for what you use' basis.

Ark, which was chosen for the venture through a competitive tender process, owns 75% of the new company while the government has a 25% share.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: "It doesn't make sense for department to host their servers in different ways and at different costs, and in the past Whitehall wasn't even sure of how many of these centres there were.

Save millions

"With this new joint venture, we will save millions and be able to access the necessary commercial and technical skills in the market to create a thriving new business that will deliver better services and allow government to share in its future success."

The new company will provide a portfolio of hosting services at different levels of accreditation, with service level agreements in line with industry standards. Customers will be able to procure its services through a pre-approved contract.

Three central government organisations have already been lined up as customers: the Department for Work and Pensions, the Home Office and the Highways Agency. All three have entered call-offs under the company's procurement framework, but the parties are still working out when they can begin to use the service.

Peter McShane, the major account director for Ark, told UKAuthority that there has already been interest from other government organisations, and that the company expects take-up to be "quite substantial in the first year of the contract".

Growing capacity

He said the company has the capacity to handle a surge in demand with both of the sites to be used under expansion.The incoming feed capacity for its Spring Park facility is being increased from 40MVA (megavolt amperes) to 120MVA and that for its Cody Park site is rising from 20MVA to 60MVA.

Overall demand will depend on the extent to which applications can be virtualised, the break points of existing hosting contracts and the timing of related procurements. Migrations can often require an extended period; for example if it is only possible to move applications at weekends.

Ark has already been supplying colocation storage services to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defence.

The government's chief technology officer, Liam Maxwell, said in a blogpost that the move will support the Cloud First policy, which involves the migration of government IT applications to the cloud.

"However, we do have some hosting arrangements that cannot make this transition to the cloud in the short to medium term," he said. "This forms a legacy estate that requires some form of ongoing hosting provision, and Crown Hosting Data Centres will provide a secure and cost-effective home for those applications."

Picture: All smiles at the signing of the Crown Hosted Data Centres contract. From Ark Data Centres

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