Public sector ICT charity to migrate all customers – understood to include local and central government bodies – by the end of 2018, after deciding public cloud is the way forward
A number of public-sector organisations need to find a new home for data and systems in the coming months, as digital government-focused charity Eduserv has decided to close its datacentre.
The Bristol-based charity currently runs a datacentre facility in Swindon which was opened in 2009. It was built with the remit of hosting websites and other data for Eduserv’s public-sector client base. Over the years a wide range of central and local government, education, and other public bodies have hosted data in the facility.
But last year Eduserv took the decision to exit the private-cloud sector, and dispose of its datacentre assets. No new clients are being taken on for the facility, and those who still have data hosted in the Swindon site will be helped to migrate it to another location by the end of the year.
The move comes following a strategic shift at the organisation, as it has decided that public cloud represents the best way forward for the public sector. Eduserv has picked Microsoft and Amazon Web Services as its core partners, and will now focus on providing its public- and third-sector clients with assessment, migration, and consultancy services around the two technology giant’s cloud offerings.
“We had already been considering alternative service providers and now have an exit strategy in place”
Brighton & Hove City Council
Eduserv chief executive Jude Sheeran said: “Eduserv continues to evolve as a technology partner of public-good organisations, and our current focus is on bringing the benefits of public-cloud services to the public and third sectors. We believe that public cloud will be better, safer, and more cost-effective for most of our clients and, ultimately, the people they serve. We also believe that the digital environment that public-cloud platforms provide will help accelerate the transformation of public services.”
Sheeran added that the charity will honour all existing agreements. The Swindon facility is still in operation, and will remain so until clients’ data is safely moved on. Eduserv has already begun helping customers move their data to other locations, he said, and this process should be completed by the end of the year.
“We took the decision to withdraw from owning datacentres in 2017 and have been working with the relevant clients to migrate them to new platforms since then,” Sheeran added. “We hope to move all of our clients before the end of 2018 and will, of course, honour our commitments to them all in the process.”
Eduserv declined to disclose to PublicTechnology the number or identity of clients that are affected by the closure, but a number of organisations have previously been named as customers of the firm’s managed cloud unit.
Brighton & Hove City Council is one client that still has data hosted in the facility. A spokesperson for the authority said that, as its agreement with Eduserv was scheduled to conclude this year anyway, it had already been examining its possible future arrangements – irrespective of the decision to close the datacentre.
The spokesperson said: “Eduserv’s decision to exit the datacentre hosting market does not present any risk to the delivery of council services in Brighton & Hove. We have worked with Eduserv since 2015, and have a number of services running from their Swindon datacentre but, as our contract with them ends this year, we had already been considering alternative service providers and now have an exit strategy in place. We will continue working with Eduserv to ensure that plans made are still achieved within the timescales in place.”
Another organisation that has previously been named as an Eduserv managed-cloud customer is the Office for National Statistics. The non-ministerial department indicated that it did not wish to shed any light on the details of its current engagement or future plans, but was “confident the storage of ONS data will not be unduly affected” by Eduserv’s exit from the datacentre market.
Another former customer is the Science and Technologies Facilities Council, which indicated that it no longer works with Eduserv.
UK Shared Business Services, a shared-service specialist jointly owned by public-sector entities including Innovate UK and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said it did not wish to comment. The organisation has previously moved data into the Swindon facility in a bid to cut capital expenditure and reduce its dependence on its own datacentre facility.
Defra, which has previously worked with Eduserv’s cloud arm on the delivery of its Animal Reporting and Movement Service, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Bristol City Council, which began working with Eduserv when it signed a £1.5m cloud deal with the charity in 2014.
But the local authority recently published an opportunity on the government’s Digital Marketplace looking for a supplier to help it “migrate a significant number of systems and databases to a cloud environment by 25 November 2018”.
“This is our critical date,” the notice added. “Beyond March 2019, our datacentre partner will no longer have a co-location service offering, therefore the timescale for completion of this work package is a significant constraint for Bristol City Council.”
“We believe that public cloud will be better, safer, and more cost-effective for most of our clients and, ultimately, the people they serve”
Jude Sheeran, Eduserv chief executive
Eduserv was first established in 1999 when an independent not-for-profit organisation focused on IT services for education establishments was formed by the spin-out of two units that began life as part of the University of Bath: Chest, a team dedicated to negotiating advantageous licensing deals for universities; and Niss, an entity backed by various funding bodies to provide ICT services for the higher-education sector.
Over the last two decades, Eduserv has expanded beyond its education roots, and now offers cloud and digital development services to clients across the public sector, as well as other charities.
Another UK datacentre operator with public-sector clients is Memset, which runs two facilities near Reading. The organisation, which has counted the likes of the Home Office and the Staffordshire County Council among its clients, still sees owning and operating its own hosting facility as a key part of its offering, according to sales director Chris Burden.
“In effect, we are competing against the likes of Microsoft Azure and AWS,” he said. “A number of government agencies and departments want to work with SMEs, and there are opportunities [for us]. We are very cost-effective, and can offer a much more personal service – and our datacentres are in the UK.”