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GDS: Public Services Network On The Way Out As G-Cloud 9 Nears

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Government cancels PSN’s long-term future while announcing schedule for upcoming G-Cloud procurement framework

The Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Service (GDS) has indicated the Public Services Network (PSN) scheme has no long-term future, and has instructed public-sector bodies to begin instead making services available over standard Internet networks.

Separately, the government said it would begin accepting applications from suppliers in early March for the upcoming G-Cloud 9 framework used by public-sector organisations to procure digital services.

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‘The Internet is OK’

In a blog post, GDS director of technical architecture and head of technology James Stewart said government technology leaders had determined the PSN is superfluous and adds a needless layer of complexity.

PSN was conceived in 2005 as a way of unifying the provision of networking infrastructure to public-sector bodies in order to reduce duplication and cut overall costs.

But Stewart said at a meeting of the government’s Technology Leaders Network “everyone agreed we could just use the Internet”.

“For the vast majority of the work that the public sector does, the Internet is OK,” he wrote.

He acknowledged that government any public sector services have in recent years relied on the PSN to provide data security and integrity, but said the increasing use of public cloud services by government has made the unified network redundant.

“As we move more and more of our systems to public cloud services the expectation that we’ll communicate over the PSN can cause confusion and adds complexity,” he wrote. “That means we’re on a journey away from the PSN.”

He said that while the change will not be immediate, organisations should begin to plan for the future right away.

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Service assurance questions

“From today, new services should be made available on the internet and secured appropriately using the best available standards-based approaches,” he wrote. “When we’re updating or changing services, we should take the opportunity to move them to the Internet.”

He added that there is “quite a bit of work to do” to prepare for the changes and said GDS wasn’t ready to provide a timeline at present.

He said GDS is working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on ways of providing data security and would be discussing matters with technology leaders and PSN users and providers in order to ensure all parties are working together and that issues are clearly identified.

Innopsis, the industry association for companies providing digital services to the public sector, said the government’s position doesn’t take into account the public sector’s need for service assurance.

Stewart’s statement focused almost entirely upon data security issues, but public-sector bodies also rely upon the assurance of reliable service provided under PSN, argued Des Ward, Innopsis’ director of information governance.

“I’d wager that the frontline public services require service assurance that will not be found in all-Internet connectivity,” he wrote in a blog post.

GDS’ role is to provide centralised leadership on technology changes, but it has been criticised in the past for an aggressive approach that has made it unpopular with some of the bodies it is supposed to be leading.
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G-Cloud 9 launch plan

Separately, GDS has published a provisional timeline for G-Cloud 9, saying the application process for suppliers would begin on 7 March.

A clarification period is to follow, ending on 28 March, with the final application deadline set for 11 April.

Suppliers are to be notified if they have been successful at the beginning of May, with the framework set to launch on 22 May.

GDS said current suppliers are to be required to reapply for places, but could review and reuse previous supplier declarations and answers.

The upcoming framework is intended to simplify how suppliers describe their products in order to make it easier for buyers to find what they need, GDS said in its notice.

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