At least two police forces have signed contracts to shift their tin to the the government's Crown Hosting shared data centre and close their existing server farms, the head of the Police ICT Company, Martin Wyke, has said.
Wyke estimates that almost every force currently has its own dedicated data centre. However, he said consolidation of data centres will be a key to reducing cops' eye-wateringly expensive annual IT bill of £1bn.
Last month Home Secretary Theresa May admonished police for still spending too much money "on expensive, fragmented and outdated systems."
Speaking to The Register, Wyke named Thames Valley as one of the forces to take the leap toward Crown Hosting, with another also looking to relocate its servers.
Last March small data centre provider biz Ark won the potentially mammoth contract to run the public sector's hosting business. However, few government bods so far have signalled their intention to use Ark's services instead of their own.
But Wyke believes it will be a key part of coppers' IT strategy in the future.
"I would be very surprised if Crown Hosting was not part of the solution [of reducing the data centre estate]. Forces ultimately should be saying why do I have a data centre at all? I don’t think forces need any."
The Police ICT Company operates by charging each force a contribution toward its upkeep. At the moment the fee is £25,000 per year, but it is set to increase to £60,000 in order to help the body become more "self sufficient".
Wyke says the outfit can save forces more than the fee that they put in by providing them with greater negotiation power. "Forces can benefit from a better deal than through [central procurement body] Crown Commercial Services (CCS) in some areas [of spending]."
One example is licensing. The body is in talks with the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe, SAP and Symantec, to negotiate uniform agreements at a national level across all forces. "Individual forces are not always big enough to see the right people in those organisations," Wyke said.
Another area of cost savings are forces' networking deals, with different amounts paid to various providers, as well as money splashed on circuits that are not being used. "We want a full and dramatic review of forces' networks, as there is a lot of wasted spend in this area."
Some 15 Home Office contracts are also set to move from the control of the Home Office to being looked after by the Police ICT company, including the non-critical 101 service.
"We believe we can take on Home Office contracts in scope and deliver seven-figure savings."
However, the body clearly has a long way to go when it comes to making a huge dent on overall police ICT spend. This year it is targeting savings of £4m this year and at least £10m over next year. That is in part because of the multiple ICT contracts running across the 43 forces, which are due to expire at different points, said Wyke. ®