The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has opened a procurement drive for its hosting and application support services as part of the exit from its IBM and Capgemini contracts.
Defra staff are due to move into offices at 2 Marsham Street next year – Photo credit: Steve Cadman, CC BY 2.0
The department has created the UnITy programme to oversee the exit of these contracts as it replaces them with a number of smaller, more flexible contracts.
It has already launched a competition for its office printer network, announcing last month that there were 25 suppliers interested, and has now opened procurement for its hosting and application support services.
The call, which chief technology officer Chris Howes described as the biggest yet, will involve securely hosting 355 applications and supporting infrastructure services to 21,000 end users.
Howes said that hosting and support of applications was the area of ICT where the biggest efficiencies and savings can be made.
He added that, as the lead government organisation for sustainability, Defra has to be “an exemplar in this area” – but that Defra’s applications are currently hosted from five data centres and around 150 server rooms spread across the regions.
Moving services to cloud hosting wherever possible would be “critical” to the work, he said.
“Consuming cloud-based services will mean that we no longer will we need to buy static provision – we can simply flex up and down our provision as our needs ebb and flow.”
Howes stressed that the work would be “a journey of incremental improvements, not a ‘big bang’ transformational event”, but that the importance of hosting and application support services “can’t be overestimated”.
The exercise will allow the department to increase efficiencies by standardising infrastructure, operating systems and services, he said. Meanwhile, the new services will support new ways of working and ensure that Defra’s ICT is more resilient, with fewer outages and failures, he said.
Defra is also carrying out a “spring clean” of its applications to identify which can be decommissioned as work is underway to “lift and shift” them. The department is also changing some of the existing applications, Howes said.