The G-Cloud is without doubt the most hyped and publicised government procurement framework of all time. In fact, I’m not sure that any other contractual vehicle in history has sparked such passion or been regarded as such a significant agent of change as the G-Cloud. Why?

Well, to understand that, you have to go back to the roots of the G-Cloud. These can be found embedded in data centre rationalisation (130 something data centres plus 9,000 server rooms across central government alone) and then the pooling of the remaining resources to enable utilised-based government computing for hosting, testing, shared services and citizen engagement. These activities were ultimately due to create huge savings, as well as an operating model that was agile, flexible and service-driven that would free government from large-scale, long-term contracts. In other words, utopia.

But has the dream that John Suffolk, Chris Chant, Denise McDonagh and co. had – and worked so passionately for – become a reality?

Well… yes and no. The G-Cloud has been a catalyst for reinvigorating discussions and engagement with an innovative supplier base that had grown tired of trying to penetrate government’s onerous procurement processes. In addition, it’s raised the visibility of and provided the Government’s rubber-stamp of approval on cloud services.

However, some of the core original components of the G-Cloud have fallen by the wayside, hence why it was recently flagged as a risk by the Major Projects Authority (MPA). It seems someone forgot to tell the MPA that data centre rationalisation and government utility-based computing were no longer part of the G-Cloud’s plan.

Furthermore, the purpose of the framework was to enable public sector organisations to buy commonly used ‘off the shelf’ commodity IT services. However, to date the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS Lots on the G-Cloud have accounted for only 21% combinedwith the remaining 79% (£215m up to the end of August 2014) spent on Lot 4 (Specialist Cloud Services i.e. consultancy).

Apparently, according to the G-Cloud Team and the Crown Commercial Service, this uptake in Lot 4 was expected and is completely natural. I agree with this statement, but only to a degree. I would have also expected a spike in the uptake of consultancy at the start of the framework and then anticipated the outcome to be an acceleration in the uptake of IaaS, SaaS and PaaS usage as a result. After two and half years that hasn’t proven to be the case.

In addition to this, I would have also expected commonly used ‘off the shelf’ commodity IT applications (i.e. SaaS) to have been substantially better adopted, but this only accounts for 13% of the total spend on the G-Cloud.

And lastly, from February 2012 to August 2014 only £271 million has been spent via the G-Cloud. This equates to 0.00675% of the public sector’s total spend on IT over the same period of time…

So why has the ‘cloud first policy’ and the ‘game changer’ cloud framework struggled to deliver on its mandate of changing the way the public sector buys and uses commodity cloud services? There could be many reasons – old procurement habits die hard, lack of education and awareness, concerns around new technology adoption – but with the launch of G-Cloud 6 scheduled for the end of this month, let’s see what the future holds.

Richard Clarke


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