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Google signs agreement to offer discounts on cloud services through UK govt's Digital Marketplace

Microsoft already at the trough, IBM and AWS said to be en route

Google has joined Microsoft in signing a framework agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding, with the UK government's centralised procurement agency to set discounts on a range of cloud services.

A deal with the Chocolate Factory is part of the One Government Cloud Computing strategy, a joint initiative between the Cabinet Office, Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and Government Digital Service (GDS). More such arrangements are in the offing with IBM and AWS.

The idea is to open up cloud services to more suppliers: this was the original plan for the G-Cloud framework's Digital Marketplace, set up in 2012 and now on its 11th iteration. To date, £8.2bn has been spent by the public sector via this tool, and though central government comprises the lion's share, plenty of councils, health sector bodies and others have used it too.

"This MoU with Google Cloud unlocks large-scale business benefits for our customers," claimed CCS chief exec Simon Tse in a canned statement.

The Reg asked Google, folk in Google's channel and the Cabinet Office what level of discounts buyers can expect, but received the same answer – it is commercially sensitive.

All UK public sector organisations are eligible to buy Google's Cloud services, including central government, local councils, arm's-length bodies, public-funded broadcasters and charities. The services tendered will run the gamut of infrastructure, analytics, AI/ML, app modernisation, collaboration, servers and hybrid IT in the guise of Anthos.

It seems unlikely Google will want to slug it out over price with rivals AWS and Microsoft on hosting infrastructure. We asked Google about this and other things but it didn't officially respond.

"This is a significant milestone for us," said Mark Palmer, head of public sector EMEA at Google Cloud in a prepared remark. "The UK public sector is a major focus for Google Cloud, and this is an opportunity to further support Her Majesty's government in their digital transformation."

Google is a distant third in the global ranking for the public cloud infrastructure market behind AWS and Microsoft.

In the UK, AWS has been the fastest growing service supplier, doubling its its footprint to £850m from April '18 to March '19, according to previous research from TechMarketView last summer.

Microsoft is well ensconced in most sectors in the UK, including the public sector, and has been for decades. Microsoft itself signed an MoU with CCS at the end of April. It covered discounted pricing for Azure, and was an addendum to the existing Digital Transformation Agreement that runs from 2018 until April 2021.

Sources told us that IBM and AWS are also preparing to sign their own MoUs in the not-too-distant future.

The plan from Google is to invest in data centre expansion across Europe. Currently, it owns five facilities in the region and, according to sources, rents rack space from an independent bit barn provider in the UK. AWS does the same.

The Reg has asked AWS and IBM for comment.

According to the G Cloud stat counter, which doesn't even include it on the dropdown supplier menu, Google – which is a supplier on the Digital Marketplace – has not turned over £1 via the portal.

Google said this is because "all current G Suite and GCP business in the UK Public Sector are currently contracted through our partners". ®

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