Government Digital Service (GDS) has revealed that it has selected a provider of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) through the G-Cloud to host the much-anticipated GOV.UK website.
Cloud provider Skyscape will host the single domain website for citizens accessing services and information across government when it is launched on October 17.
GOV.UK is currently running in beta, where new features are being added to the site every week or two.
Mark O’Neill, head of service delivery and innovation at GDS, explained the benefits of using cloud computing over hosting the service within the four walls of government.
“In the past, we might have looked at dedicated servers or possibly even our own rack in a data centre somewhere. We would then have had to decide if we wanted to own the servers or if we should rent them some time to break out amortisation tables and spreadsheets,” said O’Neill.
“We would have to make sure that we were not locked in if we needed to move servers, so it would be necessary to negotiate break clauses in contracts; we would need to arrange access to server rooms for security accreditation; we would need to… well, the list goes on and on.”
He added: “The cloud has transformed all of this. Through the G-Cloud framework we are able to simply and rapidly buy highly reliable, highly cost-effective hosting services.”
The government launched its CloudStore in February, which saw 257 suppliers signed up to the G-Cloud framework and catalogued within an online portal. It is hoped that by providing a tool whereby government departments can easily search for and buy cloud products from suppliers, which also provides quality and price comparisons, this will allow government to move away from large costly contracts and open up procurement to more SMEs.
GDS selected Skyscape after it put together a statement of requirements based on the experience it had gained during the alpha and ongoing beta releases of GOV.UK. These requirements were then tested against a list of suppliers on the G-Cloud framework, which led to a shortlist of four providers.
O’Neill claims that GDS is “planning to work with a number of different IaaS providers”, but that Skyscape will be the first.
GDS also praised the ease of the G-Cloud process and said that it is now the team’s de facto method of procurement. O’Neill said: “We have used G-Cloud previously for a number of small projects covering services like hosting and operations.
“We were very happy to discover that letting a major service contract for our flagship platform, GOV.UK, was equally straightforward and quick.”
GDS developer Gareth Rushgrove has also said that the team hasn’t ruled out the use of platform-as-a-service (PaaS), but isn’t looking for providers just yet.
Rushgrove said: “We’re very interested in the concept of PaaS too, but it’s very early days in this market – especially when we take into account the interesting security challenges we face in Government.”
“We’ll definitely keep an eye out in the future though.”