UK Government ditches Microsoft's Cloud in favour of Open Source?

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In a world of spin, smoke and mirrors working out what is 'going down' is not easy and requires the full use of the "Spencer-scale".

At one end of this sale is 'paranoia', just feelings nothing more, moving through 'guessing' to 'speculation' and then on to 'putting two and two together'. At the other end is 'analysis' (of the facts) and ultimately a simple if rare report of the 'knowns'.

When digging around for what our Government are planing next for us in the field of giant IT projects 'facts' abound but most of the time you don't see them clearly, the fun is to assemble them into a plausible narrative and get it right! The hottest of hot topics within the Cabinet Office is Cloud Computing..so just what are they up to?

G-Cloud

Recently I reported that with the move of Martin Bellamy from the NHS Microsft IT project to the Cabinet Office to 'run' G-Cloud. It looked ominously like a step towards a fully outsourced MS Azure project.

However in July the Conservative Party attempted to spike any such venture. They (The Tories) announced that they want citizens to own their own data and said that cloud outsourcing was an unacceptable risk (you try FOI'ing the Gov on how much they spend with MS and see how far you get!).

Many agreed and the press has continued to run effective Cloud scare stories. Meanwhile the Cabinet Office seems to have found a new hymn sheet.

ukgovoss

A new Open Source site was announced recently called ukgovoss.org

Was this part of the Cabinet Office as they use the hash tag #ukgovoss for feedback on on their Open Source site (which runs on Microsoft web stack).

No, ukgovoss.org turned out to be a cheeky red herring, nothing to do with Cabinet Office, it seems to have evolved from e-Gov Monitor who were hot on what happens to our data... but an unintended consequence of this diversion was a good read of the real feedback site having discovered there Open Source genius and Jedi knight Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton locked in debate with John Suffolk - UK Government CIO, no less.

Those that know Luke will realise what John Suffolk has got himself into but John seems in the mood to write at the moment. The public sector sites are littered with his very substantial writings about, interoperability, value for money, open standard and so on. Either he has little on at the moment or he is setting something up. The answer I gleaned is... Private Cloud Computing.

Private Cloud Computing

Private Clouds are all the rage amongst HPC users. Looking at the background (infrastructure IaaS, SaaS, Telcos, MOD) of the Cabinet Office personnel involved with G-Cloud, my 'guess', or my '2 and 2' is that a Private Cloud is the way they are going, having got cold feet about the outsourced model.

This fits, we have loads of data centres, certainly enough to create a National Cloud. It is also much easier to sell to the public and after all we like mega IT projects even though they never actually work.

All that is left is... how?

This means what choice of unifying technology (eg .Net/MONO) and choice of hypervisor will be made? I think, reading John Suffolk's writings that we are heading for Open Standards and interoperability... this is a good thing. It should rule out .NET and Azure but I am not so sure?

You get paranoid when the Open Source feedback site ends .aspx and you know the NHS was cobbled together (sorry, 'unified') by .NET. Ditto the Public Sector darling MS Sharepoint. So I am suspicious that MS is still there touting 'Private Azure' and claiming full interoperability and Open Standards (ho ho!).

The rhetorical technique is simple, bang on about 'good things' that folk can understand such as 'is it compatible?' 'saving money' 'rationalise' 'security' and hang them on a concept none of them understand then spend billions of fiscal stimulus money on a company everyone trusts. Ta da!

Obviously, I would want our 'National Cloud' (not that I want any Cloud at all thanks -I prefer owning my own data) to use Open Standards and Open Source technology; e.g. Nimbus, Eucalyptus et al. I would like the debate to start before we read the announcement about what they bought from whom. It would be a disaster for Open Source software if the National Cloud was based on proprietary technology.

Summary

So you have it, this post spans reportage to paranoia with everything in between. I might be wrong but there is a disturbance in 'The Force' Obi-Wan. I urge all Open Sourcers to sign up to the feedback site (URL above) and pitch in.

There may still be a window open. Have your say now, don't leave it to Luke alone :)

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