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G-Cloud Completes First Sale

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

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The government’s cloud framework has its first paying customer, despite an outage last week

The government has completed its first sale through the G-Cloud framework, in spite of availability troubles caused by a Microsoft Azure outage that affected the programme’s CloudStore platform last week.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), part of the Department for Transport, said it had let a contract through the framework within 24 hours, an improvement on standard government procurement processes that can take several months.

‘Organic approach’

The MCA’s James Findlay described the sale at the government’s BuyCamp for interested government bodies last week, according to Michael Bateman, who works at the cabinet office, and is acting as a “personal shopper” to guide potential buyers through the G-Cloud procurement process.

Bateman said the government is following an “organic, iterative approach” with G-Cloud with an emphasis on learning from the development and roll-out of the framework.

“We spoke about the organic, iterative approach that we are following, and the need to ‘work out loud’ so that we can share the learning and grow the community to support this fundamental change,” Bateman said in a blog post last week.

The CloudStore online shop gives potential buyers a quick way of comparing thousands of cloud-based services on offer through the framework, but departments can’t yet complete purchases through that avenue, Bateman said. Instead they are being told to contact Bateman directly.

‘Personal shopper’

“As a personal shopper I will be helping connect buyers and suppliers and facilitate both sides through the process of buying,” Bateman wrote. “For buyers we can help you find what the kind of services that best fit your needs, and hook you up with the suppliers of those services to you can have a chat and progress with buying which ever services you end up wishing to use.”

Bateman said the government is planning more BuyCamps on a quarterly or more frequent basis, as well as promoting G-Cloud at events and one-on-one engagement with prospective buyers.

CloudStore was taken offline last week due to an outage with its hosting platform, Microsoft’s Azure, which Microsoft said was caused by a leap year glitch.

The government later apologised for the crash but argued that downtime is not unique to cloud-based IT.

“There are, of course, those who say ‘this is the problem with cloud’,” said G-Cloud programme director Chris Chant in a blog post last week. “Well, those of us who have worked in a ‘non cloud’ IT environment for the last two or three decades have not been free of such outages I’m afraid, nor are we likely to be in the future. The issue is one of risk, it’s clearly important to have done that work up front and be ready to handle the issue it when it arises.”

Chant said the current version of CloudStore was developed with a minimum of investment, meaning it doesn’t aim for the highest levels of uptime.

“The current version of CloudStore was developed for free and we are currently paying for hosting charges on a pay as you go basis and the accompanying minimum maintenance,” Chant wrote. “The Azure install we are using does not provide multi service deployment. This is because the CloudStore is not critical government system. As a result it is unlikely that we would ever pay the premium that would be needed to guarantee ‘five-nines’ uptime for the site as it simply isn’t a wise way to spend scarce resources. Obviously this will be under continuous review.”

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