[LINK] UK Gov: Own Cloud, VoIP & Open Source

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Sat Jan 30 20:45:10 AEDT 2010

UK Government to set up own cloud computing system: 

Cloud computing could save up to £3.2bn a year, says Cabinet Office

Charles Arthur, technology editor, www.guardian.co.uk, 27th January 2010

The UK government has unveiled a sweeping strategy to create its own 
internal "cloud computing" system – such as that used by Google, 
Microsoft and Amazon – as part of a radical plan that it claims could 
save up to £3.2bn a year from an annual bill of at least £16bn.

The key part of the new strategy, outlined by the Cabinet Office minister 
Angela Smith, will be the concentration of government computing power 
into a series of about a dozen highly secure data centres, each costing 
up to £250m to build, which will replace more than 500 presently used by 
central government, police forces and local authorities.

The government will also push for "open source" software to be used more 
widely among central and local government's 4m desktop computers. 

That poses an immediate threat to Microsoft, whose Windows operating 
system and Office applications suite is at present firmly embedded as the 
standard on PCs in UK government, such as the NHS, which is one of the 
largest users in Europe.

But John Suffolk, the government's chief information officer, pointed out 
that cost savings of just £100 per machine would total £400m across 

By 2015, the strategy suggests, 80% of central government desktops could 
be supplied through a "shared utility service" – essentially a cloud 
service resembling Google Docs, which lets people create documents online 
for free.

The move to a "government cloud" mirrors the system used by Google and 
other large companies, which put cheap "server" computers into huge data 
centres to provide computing power on demand which is delivered where it 
is needed via the internet. 

That would be provided to government departments and local government, 
replacing the ageing and inefficient systems used in many of the hundreds 
of data centres presently used – and frequently run at far below their 
capacity because they are dedicated to one department.

Suffolk said that "as a rule", UK citizens' personal data will not be 
transported overseas – although he could not rule it out. 

But security of data, and the data centres, would be a high priority, he 
said. He did not rule out using Google's or Microsoft's new cloud 
services: "We will see if they fit our business requirements and personal 
data requirements," he said.

Similarly the new "cloud" system will not include the security services 
such as MI5 or MI6, which have their own, separate systems.

Estimates prepared for the government suggest the "cloud" system could 
save £900m in their first five years, and £300m annually after that 
compared to the present structure.

The government also wants to build its own "app store" of software to 
solve frequently-seen problems, by re-using programs that have been 
written elsewhere and can be re-applied. "In government I've seen 
innovations where we have cracked hideously tough problems, but other 
parts of government are looking for the same solution and don't know it's 
there," said Suffolk.

Moving to a cloud-based infrastructure could cut costs of government 
computing significantly and also satisfy its drive for a "green" agenda 
by reducing power usage. 

The Inland Revenue, for example, is presently seeing huge demand for its 
online tax return system – but that peaks every January, and then drops 
substantially. A cloud-based system shared among departments could deal 
with such sudden loads while using less power, said Kate Craig-Wood, 
managing director of the hosting company Memset, who has been working 
with the government on the strategy.

"The good thing here is that the government has tried hard to involve 
small businesses," Craig-Wood said. 

She said that the new open source approach will benefit small businesses 
that want to bid for government contracts, and that it should lessen the 
number of big IT projects that are at risk of cost overruns: "The ability 
to take advantage of the cloud means you can build those projects up 
iteratively, which is how industry does it."

Smith admitted that the government had not always been quick to embrace 
new technology. "Back in 1885, the civil service bought its first-ever 
typewriter, despite stiff resistance from in-house calligraphers. About 
20 years later the government took another leap into the unknown when it 
invested in its first telephone, a mere three decades after the 
technology was first demonstrated."

But telephones too could be revolutionised. The new scheme aims to 
replace many of the government's physical phone lines with internet-
connected "voice over internet" (VoIP) systems by 2017.



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