GDS: ‘Cloud first is here to stay’

Written by Sam Trendall on 5 November 2019 in News
News

Digital agency pledges to ‘keep the policy as it stands’

Image: GonnydeRuijter from Pixabay

The Government Digital Service has said that it will not be altering Whitehall’s long-standing Cloud First policy.

Earlier this year, GDS’s sister organisation, the Crown Commercial Service said that “’cloud first’ may not be right for everyone… [and] we have engaged with GDS to find more appropriate guidance.” This announcement came shortly after the procurement agency took over the running of the Digital Marketplace platform – a responsibility that was previously held by GDS.

Over the summer, the two Cabinet Office agencies – alongside the Government Commercial Function – began a user-research project to ascertain whether changes to the policy are needed and, if so, how it should be adapted to best suit the needs of finance, procurement, and technology professionals across government.

Despite CCS’s comments earlier this year, the plan is now “to keep the policy as it stands”, according to a blog post from GDS head of technology policy Rhiannon Lawson and lead technology advisor Tom March. Moreover, it will “remain a flagship technology policy”.


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“It’s not being revised, reissued or renamed,” the blog said. “Instead, we’re looking at ways to better meet users' needs around cloud, predominantly by providing more detailed guidance and support.”

The policy, which stipulates that public-sector buyers “should consider and fully evaluate potential [public] cloud solutions first before considering any other option”, has been in place since 2013. 

If buyers wish to use non-cloud options, they are expected to be able to show that doing so would provide the requisite security, functionality, and financial value. Applying Cloud First guidelines is mandatory for all central government organisations and “strongly recommended” for the wider public sector. 

Lawson and March said that their research to date has made it “clear how important the policy still is as it stands”. The blog claimed that the tech strategies of several major Whitehall departments – including the Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and Social Care, and Department for International Development – “are directly built on a Cloud First approach”.

User research has also revealed a high level of understanding of Cloud First and an appreciation that it does not equate to “cloud only”, according to Lawson and March. 

Rather than being replaced or revamped, the policy will be complemented with more detailed guidance that aims to offer organisations “extra help on issues such as lock-in, cost optimisation, and what benefits they might get from hybrid or multi-cloud”. 

This additional advice will be published “in the coming months”.

“Different organisations face different sets of challenges when it comes to cloud, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” the blog said. “But we found that the Cloud First policy has strong ‘brand recognition’ across government and that changing its name or content would not be beneficial to users. It helps technology and commercial people alike to modernise their organisations' infrastructure.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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