The government has officially opened up the second round of procurement for the G-Cloud with a framework that hopes to attract new suppliers and services, many of which are likely to be SMEs.
Some 257 suppliers offering approximately 1,700 services were signed to the first G-Cloud framework, which were made available from February through the government’s online portal, dubbed Cloudstore. Over 50 percent of these suppliers were SMEs.
However, the G-Cloud teams’ plan is to continuously reissue the G-Cloud framework in the hope that it keeps pace with changes in technology and as a result provide the most current as-a-service products to the public sector.
“We want to ensure that we have as big a range of services available as possible and that the content of the Cloudstore is kept fresh and up-to-date to ensure that governments use of technology can keep pace with the constantly evolving boundaries and new innovations that are happening all the time,” said a spokesperson for the G-Cloud.
“The whole purpose of the G-Cloud is to create a dynamic type of procurement to facilitate this. This procurement round is the second in an ongoing programme of continuous iterative procurements.”
According to an online blog, those with services on the original G-Cloud framework should find it fairly simple to be on the second iteration, as long as there are no material changes from the original service description.
In a recent web seminar, newly-appointed director of the G-Cloud, Denise McDonagh, who also serves as director of ICT at the Home Office, said that that the second iteration of the framework would include some new public cloud supplier heavyweights.
She said: “I am fully expecting Amazon and Salesforce to be on the G-Cloud too.”
This framework will run for 12 months, not six, which was the case for the first iteration. Also, although the standard time limit for contracts procured through this framework will still be 12 months, this can now be extended to 24 months in “exceptional circumstances”.
Computerworld UK contacted the Cabinet Office to find out what might determine exceptional circumstances, but had not received a response at the time of publication.
The value of the total procurement value through the G-Cloud framework has also increased from £60 million to £100 million.
According to the Cabinet Office, a number of features have been included in the framework to promote innovation and make it more accessible to SMEs. For example, it now includes open procedures with no lengthy pre-qualification questionnaire, less stringent requirements of financial history, simplified mandatory questions and specifications, and provision of services on standard terms.
“We are reforming the way the public sector uses ICT so that it is cheaper, more transparent, more innovative and flexible – with more opportunities for SMEs to enter the marketplace,” said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.
“Our ICT Strategy is all about the public sector avoiding the expense and inefficiency of developing different systems and duplicating services that cannot be shared. This off-the-shelf, pay-as-you-go approach is a great example, and G-Cloud services typify the cheaper more agile model for government IT that our ICT Strategy is making positive strides towards.”
The government’s ICT Strategy is part of a wide-ranging programme of reform to make government cheaper, more efficient and provide improved public services and delivered savings of £3.75 billion between 2010 and 2011. It is on track to deliver a further £5 billion between 2011 and 2012.
Maude recently revealed that the G-Cloud itself cost the tax payers £4.93 million, but will save £340 million.
The launch of the second framework also comes shortly after the government revealed the second iteration of its online Cloudstore, which is essentially a catalogue of services provided on the framework. Although the latest iteration has improved search functionality, the government reneged on its promise to make the second version using open-source software and instead opted to build the store on an already existing government platform.
It is also expected that the government will announce a G-Hosting framework shortly, which is set to complement the G-Cloud, and will allow the public sector to place complex applications into highly virtualised, shared environments within selected suppliers’ data centres.