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Guest blog: The Irish government Cloud Services Catalogue - definitely not a carbon copy of G-Cloud

08/07/14

Bill McLuggageCloud computing across the Irish government has taken a major step forward with the publication of the request for tenders (RFT) to establish a multi-supplier framework agreement for the supply of cloud computing services. Details of the RFT can be found at www.etenders.gov.ie and tenders need to be submitted by 13.00 hrs on 31 July.

Given the growing success of the UK government's G-Cloud framework, now in its fifth iteration, there is likely to be significant interest in Dublin's equivalent catalogue from cloud service providers who are on the UK's Cloud Store. However, the approach taken by the Irish government to the delivery of its Government Cloud Services Catalogue (GCSC), while described as the 'first of its kind in this jurisdiction', is much more traditional in nature than that of the UK.

The framework will run for two years, with the potential for a further two extensions of 12 months each, and while there are no further tender stages, it does involve a single mini-competition stage - much like the G-Cloud down select process without the 'long list'.

While the intent is somewhat similar, delivery of commodity cloud-based ICT services at the most competitive price, there are several significant differences between the design of the Irish GCSC and the UK's G-Cloud. First, is the focus on using a 'category' model based on clear business language to describe the required service, rather than the use of classic cloud technology terms such as SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. When we gave the supplier briefing in Croke Park, Dublin, last year, I used an Argos catalogue as an example of a category based procurement framework and this is now reflected in the RFT.

Another major difference is what are described as 'service access levels'. Service Access Levels are determined based on three factors: how the service is delivered/consumed at a network level (for example, connected directly via the Irish Government Network or delivered across an Internet connection); how management of the service is achieved (either over a direct connection (VLAN) across the government network, via the service provider's own network connection to the government network or over the internet); and, how data residency/multi-tenancy is handled (i.e. the location and ownership of the service hosting location).

A clear attempt has been made to reduce the opportunity for vendors to 'cloud wash' existing IT services and hardware/software deliverables that are best delivered through either reverse e-auctions or OJEU-based major project procurements have been excluded. So too has the opportunity to cloud wash classic IT consultancy services.

Given the maximum length of the potential framework (four years) and the likelihood that cloud computing technology will have significantly changed during the lifetime of the framework, it is worth noting the service enhancement mechanism which should permit agreed changes to service descriptions during the lifetime of the framework as long as they comply with certain rules.

Having been involved in both the development of the UK's G-Cloud and Irish GCSC I have been asked if the GCSC will follow a similar uptake curve to the G-Cloud and my answer has been 'yes'. But I also believe that consumption from the GCSC will probably progress more quickly up the 'hockey stick' curve because of a number of factors:

(1) Pent up demand for new services that has resulted from the recent period of austerity and rigid ICT spend control,
(2) The 'cloud first' policy adopted by the IT Spend Control team in the OGCIO and the clear 'Build to Share' mandate re-stated in the Irish government's Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016, and
(3) Best practice examples from other jurisdictions, particularly across Europe, where the use of cloud computing by public service bodies has resulted in quicker deployment of new, improved and less costly public services.

Finally, for those who would like a recommendation on whether to submit a tender, I thought these words from one of my favourite characters sums up the old adage 'you can't win if you're not in': "You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.

 

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