The G-Cloud

The G-Cloud

A government cloud (G-Cloud) is not on the agenda for Northern Ireland’s public sector at the moment but its development in England is being watched closely. Meadhbh Monahan reports.

While the Coalition Government plans to announce the creation of secure cloud computing infrastructure for the public sector in its forthcoming ICT strategy, a similar G-Cloud has not been scheduled for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Civil Service’s ICT strategy is due to be released this month and a spokesman from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) told agendaNi: “The NICS does not have any current plans to move significant numbers of internal services to the public cloud.”

When the Labour government first announced the idea of using cloud computing services it estimated that a G-Cloud would save £3.3 billion on its £16 billion ICT spend.

On 12 October, Andy Tait, Deputy Director of the G-Cloud programme in the Cabinet Office, told an ICT conference in Brighton that the coalition government’s G-Cloud will consist of five ‘worlds’: testing, hosting, web applications, SMEs and a ‘shared’ world. It will also be organised into business communities, with central government, health and education expected to need similar software. He said that the G-Cloud should not be thought of as a “thing”, but as a set of standards and specifications to enable organisations to buy pre-approved software.

Tait also revealed that an application store for government (ASG) will also be part of the strategy and that it will enable different bodies to share and re-use software thereby saving money on services such as Blackberrys.

The DFP spokesman explained that elements of cloud computing such as “consolidated networking, consolidated data centres and virtualisation” are already in use. He continued: “Cloud computing is an area of ICT which is evolving very quickly. While the NICS does not have any current plans to move significant numbers of internal services to the public cloud we are fully aware that the Cabinet Office is actively pursuing the concept of a G-Cloud.”

He added that the department will “watch this development closely” and “will be keen to engage with it at the earliest appropriate time to secure the much hoped for benefits for both NICS and the citizens of Northern Ireland.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, Information Technology Laboratory (NIST) defines cloud computing as “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g. networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

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