HMRC is to tax OpenStack cloud with UK citizens' data

'Linux for the cloud' to host beloved state service

Britain’s taxman has embraced OpenStack for a fledgling cross-channel digital tax service.

HMRC is rolling out its vaunted multi-channel digital tax platform (MDTP) on OpenStack from relatively unknown cloud start up DataCentred.

That means what was once billed as a Linux for the cloud has become the web and data centre middleware for the tax affairs of millions of individuals and SMBs in the UK.

The OpenStack service will store data for Digital Self-Assessment, PAYE for employees and Your Tax Account for SMEs

MDTP is part of the HMRC’s digital strategy, a document published in November 2015.

DataCentred, is a listed G-Cloud supplier based in MediaCity in Salford, near Manchester. It was founded in 2011 by Mike Kelly – who set up UK internet hub Telecity, which floated in 2000 for £600m. Kelly’s new venture claims it is the UK’s only OpenStack public cloud – services include co-location and IaaS.

Much of British government, especially the super departments such as HMRC, are suited-and-booted closed-source, long-term Microsoft shops. HMRC, for example, runs 80,000 desktop PCs loaded with Windows.

Winning HMRC over is big news for OpenStack, which is understandably chuffed that such a critical, central organ of the UK national government has picked its platform.

The news came as a consortium of European telcos won part of a European Commission tender to deliver an OpenStack-based cloud to EC agencies.

The Cloud Team Alliance is now on the designated list of suppliers for public cloud services to 55 EU agencies under a contract worth €34.6m (US$38.5m, £26.6m). CTA includes Numergy, Belgacom, KPN Wholesale and Portugal Teleco. The firms will provide elastic compute services using OpenStack, with agencies able to place workloads where they wish between the consortium partners' data centres.

Jonathan Bryce, OpenStack executive director, told The Register that the HMRC and the EU wins demonstrated the desire for cloud outside of the web super tier – such as Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure and cloud services from Google.

Moreover, according to Bryce, the fact it’s open source meant startups like DataCentred were able to build custom services and price them at substantially lower cost in the first place.

“It speaks to the power of having a set of technologies that can be deployed in a lot of different regions, and profiles and use cases,” Bryce said.

“The hyper-scale provides like Amazon, Microsoft and Google will be a big part of the cloud story for ever, but for me, it really shows that cloud is much more than hyper scale. These telcos and mid market providers need a technology that they know they can build the cloud on – and they know OpenStack is the best for that,” he said. ®

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