back to article UK government puts £750m on the table as it looks to deal directly with cloud providers

The UK government has launched a £750m procurement looking for platform and infrastructure services direct from public cloud providers - the latest in a bewildering array of UK.gov frameworks for the fluffy white stuff. The Crown Commercial Service (CCS), run by the Cabinet Office, is putting together a framework agreement for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > you must have full and exclusive control of the infrastructure which underpins the platform used to provide the services

    AWS could not have written a friendlier requirement. This means that the tender is being pitched as one that is simply to buy "utility" services, and as such they want to buy directly from the supplier cutting out the middleman. This seems reasonable, but there's going to be absolutely nothing stopping those credits bought for the "utility" services (ec2, s3 etc.) being spent on non-utility services (e.g. Redshift et al). That's where they'll end up being spent, but the tender isn't open to any competitors (your Snowflakes and suchlike) on the non-"utility" front. Absolutely absurd.

    Let's put this another way. When you purchase your electricity supply from your *actual* utility company, do you require they own and operate all the underpinning infrastructure? No, you absolutely do not. Because the entire point of a utility supply is that it is interchangeable with any other utility supply and thus the suppliers compete on price and overall service. This contract is a complete inversion of the utility principle to build the kind of lock in we've not seen since IBM were cool.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually I always thought it utterly ridiculous that the same electricity coming over the same network of wires from the same power station can be bought from different utility companies. It is merely an artificial construct to create an illusion of competition to get around the monopoly rules when the electricity industry was privatized.

    2. Robert Grant Silver badge

      The difference is that electricity is fungible and has something stronger than assurances and audits to prove it isn't exfiltrating your data.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >The difference is that electricity is fungible

        That's half the point. If cloud services were fungible then vendors can all ultimately supply the same product it doesn't make sense to severely restrict the vendors you purchase from on the basis of underlying infra ownership. If cloud services aren't fungible, then vendors can all ultimately add value to the provision in different ways, so it doesn't make sense to severely restrict the vendors your purchase from on the basis of underlying infra ownership.

        Let's try another analogy. This is like picking a freight company on the basis of whether they've leased or purchased their fleet. This is like picking a plumber on the basis of whether he owns or hires his blowtorch.

        1. Robert Grant Silver badge

          Your analogies are off, though. Cloud isn't people renting physical servers and operating them yourself, like a freight company buying or leasing a fleet. It's outsourcing a service to someone else, like hiring a freight company. You take it on trust the company is not looking at or stealing your stuff.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Flame

      AWS could not have written a friendlier requirement.

      In an amazing coincidence...

      Amazon UK executive to advise GDS on gov.uk

    4. Secon

      Whilst the first part of that might appear to favour AWS:

      "The government only wants bids from providers with "full and exclusive control" of the infrastructure that underpins their platforms"

      The latter part rules out just about every hyper cloud player "which are capable of providing the services primarily from within the UK".

      This is potentially just as well IF the UK want to retain any alignment with Europe (but perhaps not if they don't?

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Who has bought a stake in the company that gets the deal?

    The governments' view seems to be that we need to privatize all public money.

    But the plus side is that this means that after the first hack we will have publicized all government data. Oh wait, no - they are just going to put public data in the cloud, MP's expenses will still be stored on their phones.

    1. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: Who has bought a stake in the company that gets the deal?

      > The governments' view seems to be that we need to privatize all public money.

      What does this mean? Most government spending is on private companies, and it all comes from private money.

  3. Blitheringeejit
    Meh

    Any chance...

    ...that some of that moolah might go into hiring a bunch of knowledgeable cloud-techies to work for the public sector directly, so they can understand the requirements and ensure best value? Rather than hiring in expensive consultancies to tell the public sector what it needs?

    Thought not.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Any chance... of what could and would be a Great Advanced IntelAIgent Reset

      Any chance that some of that moolah might go into hiring a bunch of knowledgeable cloud-techies to work for the public sector directly, so they can understand the requirements and ensure best value? Rather than hiring in expensive consultancies to tell the public sector what it needs? ...... Blitheringeejit

      I like to think that advanced common sense would prevail and there be every chance of that being a widespread future reality in a postmodern present global reprogramming project, Blitheringeejit, especially whenever it is not necessary that anybody who doesn't already know what to do, needs to do actually anything other than listen to and try to heed and carry out future provided instructions. And it isn't as if things are going to be made too difficult for assets to perform. That would be a certifiable madness and both counter-productive and self-destructive. Indeed, in Deed, a Fatal Folly for Fools to Follow.

      "The services can most simply and usefully be thought of as a commodity 'utility' service where buyers connect to and use the supplier's platform and processing resources for their own requirements,” the tender said. ...... The government only wants bids from providers with "full and exclusive control" of the infrastructure that underpins their platforms which are capable of providing the services primarily from within the UK.

      Ok, that sounds realistic and reasonable and unencumbering of second and third party hinderances and corrupting vested interests ..... which is certainly surely something of a virgin novelty in governments of late ..... and certainly of avid and rabid interest to principals posting comment on such matters as matter and be oft discussed and registered here for collective non-selective peer review.

      All that is needed now from both governments and future infrastructure service suppliers alike are a list of the ideally leading exclusive goods to be provided. And it is not an inconsequential and insignificant market place, for many others also would be seeking future leading goods and raw core complementary ore/proprietary intellectual property there, not least the cowboys and injuns across the pond in the Wild Wacky West direction ........

      GrahamC [2012040912/1104] ..... keeping it surprisingly simple on https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/12/3/defense-department-wants-to-expand-acquisition-framework

      Now, the Defense Department is looking for new pathways to add to this framework, Lord noted. For instance, the Pentagon is working with the nascent Space Force to examine the best ways for obtaining systems it may need.

      “We are really committed to developing a tailored space vehicle pathway if needed,” she said. “The department is working with the Space Force to determine if there are any tools needed.”

      As sophisticated and ground-breaking and great game changing as some of these new disruptive systems and technocracies may be, ....and it would a major folly easily immediately punished if one were not to realise the emergence and proliferation of such in the present mainstream, ...... it can be surprisingly simple to capture and captivate future necessary needs and feeds via that well tested staple of enriching principal sources with fiat currency. And that facility is one which is available to anyone from anywhere which has access to and can exercise such a convenient utility.

      It has quite an excellent successful well proven track record, and as a tailored space vehicle pathway to desired riches, quite a stealthy ubiquitous craft.

      The only real difficulty preventing guaranteed success in such a venture is in identifying the worthy principals to benefit from such effective blunt enrichments.

      .... which returns on attempts at posting ....[Sorry, an error has occurred on the page you are trying to access.]

      00ps! That is surely not usually supposed to happen whenever one hits the "submit comment" button there . And what is one to think whenever it fails to accept comment for a second time, a couple of hours later? Too much imaginative speculation on that could put one in a right spin, if one were easily put in a right spin.

      Sometimes it really can be a case of ...."Was it something which was said?" ...... which has systems going into spasm and lockdown and/or DDoS Meltdown.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Another gentle reminder re great chances being immediately squandered and your changes being lost.

        How helpful and ineffective is any downvote unaccompanied by the reason or reasons for the displeasure displayed? On a scale of 1 to 10 would that be worthy of a 0 or 11?

        If you have nothing to say, either good or bad, save your failing energy and don't cast a dumb vote. You know it makes sense. Save being nonsensical for elsewhere where such fare is default ware. Thanks.

        Constructive criticism rules in most every roost. Use it. It is not as if it is free for you to use to try help and make a difference, after all, when all is said and done?

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Another gentle reminder to not forget to remember.

          Did you spot the misleading mistake in the last sentence above?

          The sentence should of course read, ...... It is not as if it is not free for you to use to try help and make a difference, after all, when all is said and done?

          It surely makes a more perfect sense accurately reflecting current present situations.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Any chance...

      Exactly this writ large ... and ...

      “The UK government's desire to work directly with big vendors is not limited to the cloud. In June it put out feelers to figure out what the prospects of working directly with the big application vendors might look like,”

      Perhaps Oracle and other ‘integrated’ ERP/Payroll/Accounts suppliers could with the coercion of CCS design a small/medium/large/metropolitans/county or region sized implementations to ‘the same things all councils do’ - council tax/social services/highways/public health/refuse/procurement/payroll etc.. etc.. that how should I describe it ...’just Fucking work’ and that interface to consumers and central govt and NHS in a common collective and secure fashion.

      It would save every council in the nation from pissing this money up and over the the wall.

  4. Howard Sway

    does not necessarily cut out resellers, some of whom were keen to get involved

    I bet they were.

    And who can blame them really when there's so much money being carelessly chucked around?

    How the hell can you say you have an "ambition" to go from spending £13 billion to £30 billion? Are all the jobs lined up already for senior civil servants and ministers in a couple of years time? How about focussing on what you NEED, and building that efficiently and cost effectively as an ambition instead?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: does not necessarily cut out resellers, some of whom were keen to get involved

      The money is already being spent. The ambition is for it to be spent via CCS-negotiated agreements, on the basis that in theory these centrally-negotiated mega-frameworks are cheaper than every department, agency, body and council negotiating their own.

  5. Foxglove

    I laughed at this bit...

    'His organisation is on the look out for a CDIO to help it get internal systems up to snuff.'

    Not because it's funny in itself, but glancing through the article quickly as I was I honestly read that as:

    His organisation is on the look out for a DIDO to help it get internal systems up to snuff.

    You never know, my misread might come true!

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    tail

    up

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Starkoman
    FAIL

    Not Fit For Purpose

    The UK government has a very long, ignominious (even spectacular) history of specifying and procuring shockingly poor departmental/interdepartmental/government-wide I.T. systems which went massively over-budget, came in years late and, ultimately, completely failed to do the job they were originally intended for.

    For example(s), few government departments can view linked records with other parts of the *same* department; few government departments or agencies can see what other departments/agencies’ systems hold (or interact with them); the NHS system is barely able to pull up patients’ medical records to check what medications they’re prescribed or whether they’ve been progressed (let alone delivered)(despite digital prescriptions being “introduced” 2+ years ago). Much of the time, hospitals are not linked into dentists, opticians, GP surgeries, et al., and vice versa.

    We’ve seen hundreds of ex-government Ministers, formerly responsible for overseeing the procurement and implementation of these failed systems, appear with sickening regularity appear upon retirement (or being voted out), on the Boards of these same failed contracting companies as “Consultants” — at £350,000+ for four days work per annum. Brown envelopes are a thing of the past. Nowadays, British politicians are bribed with future Board positions to approve the company bid today.

    This year particularly, UK taxpayers have been witness to numerous hopelessly flawed major contracts going, not to the best bidder of a protracted tendering process, but to direct chums of the Ministers responsible for awarding contracts: some companies even receiving “Most favoured business status”, of the Prime Minister — who himself “bunged” a contract or two, without any tendering process whatsoever, to Serco (an outfit with such a long/disgraceful record of public sector failures and overcharging, that much of their time is spent being prosecuted in courts).

    “All perfectly legal”, Ministers claim: “Because we changed the law nine months ago, er, er... because of Covid”.

    Against this dire historical background and blatant corruption, politics aside, we can all be absolutely certain that no system specified and endorsed by the British government in Whitehall, will ever do what it’s been purchased for — or required to do.

    Essentially, it all boils down to money — and Westminsters’ MP’s, Cabinet Members, Ministers and the PM have proven themselves expert in shamelessly fleecing every penny they can possibly gouge for themselves and their rich chums from the woefully undefended public purse.

    This cloud project will be exactly the same, mark my words.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK lets break this down a bit...

    The terms of this are really interesting:

    "The main purpose of this framework agreement is to put in place a route for UK public sector organisations (Buyers) to buy their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) requirements directly from the owners of public cloud platforms (Suppliers)."

    Didn't GDS bang on about 'when we say Cloud we mean Public Cloud, and it should be SaaS?' Now they are mainly looking for IaaS and PaaS?

    "The scope is necessarily restricted to ‘pure’ compute requirements which do not require additional services such as design, detailed configuration, tailoring or any ongoing management or professional services to assist with data migration in/out. The services can most simply and usefully be thought of as a commodity ‘utility’ service where Buyers connect to and and use the Supplier’s platform and processing resources for their own requirements, subject to acceptable use policies and compliance with law. Examples could include the development of new software applications or to manipulate large sets of data such as weather prediction or modelling medical scenarios, and particularly the ability for the services to be rapidly scalable at short notice."

    So this is a £750m pot which will be worth perhaps 4-5 times this value when its fleshed out fully.

    Also interesting that its described as a 48 month Framework, then a 24 month + 12 + 12 month; but on the main page it says its a 3 year plus 1 plus 1 - which is it??

    This bit however is REALLY interesting -

    "Bidders should note the following key requirements to participate in the procurement of this framework agreement:

    1) you must have full and exclusive control of the infrastructure which underpins the platform used to provide the services;"

    Not many folks have an environment where they OWN the infrastructure (and its not clear why a provider has to own the underlying infra?) - could this have been written to limit the bidders to one or two individual companies?

    "2) you must use the Public Cloud Deployment Model here: https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/Legacy/SP/nistspecialpublication800-145.pdf to provide the services;"

    But HMG Classification Scheme specifically says that you CANNOT use Public Cloud for any data that used to be BIL 3xx or above (which is most HMG data).... and yes I know blogs say you can but blog is not signed Ministerial policy

    "3) you must be capable of providing the services primarily from within the UK (where specifically required by Buyers);"

    So again VERY few suppliers who can actually deliver that - Microsoft and AWS can't (though they claim they can) - Google have no chance.

    "4) you must be able to offer a platform availability of 99.9 % across an all day every day baseline;"

    Question really is how will that be measured - Azure do it globally, which can mean its far below that locally (ie if you looked just at UK...)

    "5) you must provide one example of a contract where you have delivered services using the Public Cloud Deployment Model to a customer organisation (public or private sector) in Europe during the last 3 years."

    Challenging - esp since although you can form a consortium, or have named sub-contractors - its not actually clear how they will apply this?

    Some of the weightings also tend to move the needle away from the big providers - Data Sovereignty having a weighting of 25% SHOULD hurt those guys (but I suspect it won't be examined in much detail, and both Data Sovereignty and Security are just minor components in a long list...).

    And with NOTHING about vetting, or clearances or any of the tricky stuff like that, it's not clear if most of the NCSC Cloud Security Guidelines have even been considered.

    Then when you consider its been published just before Xmas (and Brexit) with a sporty timeline in January and you have to draw the conclusion that this was written for mainly one supplier - but which one? AWS, Azure or UK Cloud???

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