GDS to close PaaS public-sector hosting platform

Service to be decommissioned by the end of 2023 while a review of future options will be undertaken

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Government Digital Service is to close its Platform as a Service hosting offering for public sector organisations.

The platform was created in 2015 and, over the last seven years, has been used by upwards of 60 government agencies local authorities to host a collective total of 172 digital services, according to GDS. In a blog post announcing the decommissioning process – which will take place over the next 18 months – the digital agency said that “seven years is a long time in tech and things have changed”.

“The big cloud providers – Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google Cloud Platform and others – have upped their game and reduced the barriers to entry for digital teams,” said the blog, which was credited to GDS chief executive Tom Read and Clara Barnett, deputy director of digital service platforms. “Over the same period, departments have built better and more expert in-house cloud engineering capability, and are (broadly) clustering around a Kubernetes based architecture.”

It added: “GOV.UK PaaS has not seen the rapid and continued growth that we’ve seen with some of our other platform products, and is now at a point where we either invest heavily in some significant technical architecture changes, or we make the difficult decision to sunset the product. We have decided to do the latter.”

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Alongside the decommissioning process, GDS will work with sister Cabinet Office agency the Central Digital and Data Office to engage with technology leaders across government “to understand what a future central hosting offer could or should be”. 

The options under consideration will include “doing nothing… creating a reusable set of configuration and management… all the way through to building a new PaaS v2 using different architecture”.

Despite the decision to close the service, the GDS leaders said that “we’re rightly proud of the work that’s been done on GOV.UK PaaS” which, when it was launched, “was the right product at that time”.

“The team who built and run the service are passionate, committed and quite brilliant,” the blog said. “It has enjoyed uptime of 99.95%, and suffered only one major incident in its seven years. All this while tenants deployed services more than 122 times a day, made up of 3,200 applications.”

PaaS also played a key role in the early months of the coronavirus crisis, said Read and Barnett, as it allowed “new services to be spun up quickly [and] also enabled GOV.UK Notify to scale rapidly to handle an increase in messaging volume, enabling them to send an average 400 messages per second, with a peak of 15 million notifications in a day”.

“GOV.UK PaaS has been a great product, led by a fantastic team,” they said. “The focus now is on supporting our tenants through the decommission process and reflecting on our future in this space.”


Sam Trendall

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