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Gov CloudStore critics: 'Rollout too fast, contracts too short'

Grumblings from within the channel

The G-Cloud framework has received criticism from analysts as well as from some corners of the channel over the construction and rollout of CloudStore before it was ready for public sector consumption.

The online catalogue – built in 28 days – was unveiled last weekend but G-Cloud programme director Chris Chant has already admitted the site is facing its fair share of teething problems.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, principal analyst at The Real Story Group, told El Reg: "I can't say I was too impressed. Getting a web app connected to what essentially is a spreadsheet in four weeks is fine, but this should never have gone live at this stage."

He said on his blog that not one of the services had been tested or certified, that providers claims were accepted verbatim, that services were being run on products that do not meet government standards and that many "experienced" public sector suppliers were conspicuous by their absence.

"[There are currently] no details on what future accreditation will actually mean or demand of a supplier or service," he added.

Pelz-Sharpe said he was "all for" speeding up and removing bureaucracy from procurement cycles but said the web application was not the key aspect.

"It's the quality and veracity of the information delivered that matters most. That information is nowhere near ready for consumption right now."

Storage integrator Proact reckons CloudStore's infrastructure-as-a-service element is not fit for purpose and could be more costly than expected.

In a letter to Government Procurement Services, Swedish-owned integrator Proact – which acquired B2Net in the UK last year – claimed it had decided not to submit a tender for the G-Cloud framework due to several concerns.

Lack of skills biting hard

The first bone of contention was the standards defined by NIST for Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS): "We do not believe this model offers enough value to a typical public sector organisation," said Martin Thompson, Proact's public sector manager.

The IaaS model allows users to rent hardware resources but "one of the biggest challenges we see in the public sector is the lack of skills and resource to manage operations and deliver new projects," Thompson said.

Proact's helpdesk handles on average 900 new incidents per month and the vast majority occur in relation to the OS and upwards, it said. It also claimed stats from its managed services operation showed 65 per cent of administration time was taken up by Change Management and Release Management.

"None of this is included for the OS and above with the NIST defined model, therefore this model will not address one of the key challenges within the public sector around the lack of skills and resources," Thompson said.

Proact's public sector manager said suppliers were not able to negotiate any clauses in the contract during the tender stage and that capping contracts at 12 months – where government is trying to avoid any costly terminations – would in the end be more costly.

"In reality re-negotiating contracts such as this every six months is far too onerous for all parties involved and will result in increased costs. A longer term contract would also attract much more favourable rates," Thompson added.

More than 250 suppliers made into the catalogue and all of those were glowing in their praise of the programme.

Guy Beaudin, public sector business development director at Insight, pointed out this was the first time government has procured commodity services via the cloud and expected it to achieve cost savings.

"The [rollout] has been done quickly but for all the right reasons, government has got to reduce public sector spend in a big way," he said.

Beaudin said he expected the selection process to become more stringent, though not necessarily in the next iteration due at the end of spring, and claimed that if a supplier's services were not in demand then it was unlikely to remain on board. ®

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