Building the UK’s First Public Sector Cloud
Cloud as we currently know it has developed immensely over the last ten years. Turning the clocks back to a decade ago, cloud was considered far too risky and a largely expensive proposition for the vast majority of public sector organisations. To a certain extent, this is still true today, with 54% believing that cloud is more expensive than on-premises for traditional applications. This shows that although the industry has made significant progress, there is still a long way to go. Before cloud, there was a consensus that taxes were being ‘thrown down the drain’ on huge, failed public sector IT projects, with no perceived benefit to UK citizens.
2013 saw the government introduce its ‘Cloud First’ policy, a green light for the public sector to explore the benefits of cloud. This was the moment of realisation that cloud is essential and marked the first-time public-sector IT could consider lifting and shifting workloads to cloud as a safe and affordable option.
Implementing the Cloud First policy for all technology decisions was mandatory for the government and strongly recommended to the wider public sector. There was a requirement to evaluate all potential cloud solutions, before considering any other option.
We were established to create change.
Because of a lack of choice, large-scale public sector IT projects during much of the previous decade were always extremely expensive. These legacy solutions were not by any means ideal, but with cloud technology only just emerging, being scarcely available, thus overly expensive, on-prem was the only ‘viable’ public sector IT solution.
However, that doesn’t excuse the loss incurred by repeated failed public sector projects, especially with the government’s austerity agenda in 2010 putting a strain on public finances. Time after time, solutions were underwhelming and only ever taped over the cracks. This draining of tax-payers’ money was frustrating to watch. However, with only a few players in an essentially oligopoly market, the public sector had no choice but to put ‘all their eggs in one basket.’
Change was evidently needed…
This is where UKCloud stepped in, to provide choice and diversity – options that were previously absent in the public sector IT market.
We believe competition and pluralism ensures that higher quality services are consistently provided to citizens, with a better value for taxpayers. With only a handful of public sector cloud suppliers, there is no way of guaranteeing public sector organisations are receiving the best value from their digital solutions.
However, increased competition provides the public sector greater choice, better value for money and more refined solutions – especially important in an industry with such niche requirements. It also eliminates the issue of settling with the few organisations who provide services to meet your requirements. Requirements that are always growing and changing, but stuck like a square peg forced into a round hole. Essentially, we formed to ‘break the mould’ and remove the stereotypes associated with cloud providers, providing customers with the freedom of choice and flexibility.
Our entry into the market, providing previously elusive choice, meant that both public sector organisations and taxpayers could finally get better value for their money. We provided a middle ground where organisations could lift and shift their legacy IT applications, without hindering existing investments.
UKCloud was initially created to provide cloud solutions for an industry stuck working with legacy applications in expensive, ageing data centres. Unwilling to ditch those applications, which hosted their critical workloads, the industry found itself crying out for a simple lift and shift solution for legacy applications. This is where UKCloud for VMware was born, allowing the public sector to migrate to cloud much more easily – lifting and shifting applications into a sovereign and secure cloud with ease.
Our legacy cloud migration solution meant cloud was no longer overly expensive or complex – cloud could be what the public sector needed. But with these needs evolving over time, our focus has expanded too.
This is how we evolved our multi-cloud platform, by realising there was no one cloud that fits every workload. Each customer has different requirements, and each workload requires a different solution. This is why multi-cloud is so important.
Why is multi-cloud so important?
Data is the ‘oil or gold’ of the information era. It’s an undervalued and underutilised resource, with the infrastructure it relies on being described by the UK Government as a “vital national asset which needs to be protected and nurtured” (National Data Strategy 2020).
With different organisations requiring different solutions, it’s no wonder the UK’s utilisation of data was for so long stuck stagnant, held hostage by ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions that didn’t work for the public sector at all. Even to this day, this is largely the case. So how do public sector organisations better leverage this valuable resource?
To extract the most out of a resource, you need the most suitable equipment, meaning choice in cloud was essential. That’s why we developed a greater focus on multi-cloud, providing the ability to mix and match multiple cloud technologies on a single, secure, sovereign cloud platform. A cloud built for critical public sector workloads – a true Public Sector Cloud.
Offering a platform that could deliver benefits for all public sector organisations, at all levels of digital maturity, meant developing a cloud that could offer choice, assurance, and flexibility.
Our multi-cloud platform utilises virtualisation technology clouds such as VMware, so you can lift and shift existing legacy workloads, making cloud adoption much less disruptive. If at any point in the future your organisation decides to be more ambitious, utilising cloud technologies such as Azure or OpenStack, you already have a digital foundation to build upon.
A Public Sector Cloud needs critical assurance. Data is valuable, but it’s also sensitive. Our platform has uncompromising assurance, can host above-OFFICIAL workloads, and no data ever leaves the island. But a public sector cloud also needs to be uncompromisable in order to instil trust. The intangibility of cloud makes organisations wary, and this is still an inhibition that needs tackling further. UKCloud is the only UK sovereign Strategic Cloud Provider with government-approved secure facilities and security cleared staff, bringing the power of cloud services into the most secure and sensitive environments – and we make it easy to connect and share information across many networks.
It’s all about making your digital strategy fit for you, now and when you grow. That means on-demand scalability, Software-as-a-Service, hybrid cloud and much more. Flexibility is crucial for public sector organisations that require unique solutions. It’s clear to see why a ‘one size fits all’ cloud could never take off. But the association of cloud with inflexibility still plagues public sector cloud adoption, fostering inertia and forcing expensive legacy solutions to stick around. UKCloud’s pay as you go pricing model means you only pay for what you need. A model that allows organisations to consume cloud services and deliver IT as and when they are needed.
How we built our multi-cloud portfolio.
Multi-cloud is the future of public sector cloud.
The concept has changed over time. At the beginning of our journey, multi-cloud simply meant different variations of our first product, VMware. But since a virtualisation cloud technology doesn’t match the various requirements of the public sector, we realised multi-cloud meant giving organisations the choice of multiple cloud technologies in one data centre.
This presented the challenge of understanding the best choice for the industry. Which applications would allow public sector organisations to get the most out of their digital strategy? How can our portfolio help organisations build their digital foundations in the cloud, but also give them a platform to transform?
We also recognised that organisations looking to utilise cloud-native capabilities were stuck having to pile resources into developing cloud software that could host their workloads. This was, and still is, impractical, expensive, and labour intensive. Not to mention the cost to maintain and upgrade those systems.
At UKCloud, we realised it was more practical for the public sector to take advantage of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), so we built a community of partners who could level up organisations’ cloud capabilities and host their workloads. This meant no wasted time and money building and upgrading, and more time and money focussed on what matters.
After all, why build when you can buy?
It’s all about choice, because in providing choice, there are now specific answers to the question: “What can cloud do for my public sector organisation?” No longer is the answer –” You can build whatever you want”. Choice creates purpose, reduces cost, frees up time, and helps organisations level up their digital maturity at speed.
But a public sector cloud is more than just choice, it’s also about support. This is an industry stuck working with IT solutions that are less than ideal – out of date, overly expensive and a ticking time bomb for another ‘WannaCry’ attack. Having had no real support in understanding the best cloud strategy for their workloads, organisations have been stuck working with what they have, or have adopted an unfit for purpose cloud package, with no way out.
This is why we’ve placed so much emphasis over the years on being cloud experts, first and foremost. We have an engrained understanding of the public sector – our industry-specialist staff, cohort of partners and collections of case studies will tell you that. We deliver expert support and advice on getting the most out of your digital strategy, with vendor agnostic cloud services so we can find the right fit for your organisation’s needs.
Being Public Sector Cloud experts means delivering Professional Services to those organisations who need a helping hand on a more comprehensive level. It means no longer treating cloud in the public sector as ‘self-service’, understanding that it is the underpinning of critical workloads, and that users should have access to support and attention. It means always doing the right thing.
That’s what makes a Public Sector Cloud.