Defence Cloud: A secure, UK-sovereign cloud solution – built for defence

UKCloud are approaching 10 years of success with our public cloud offering, and what an incredible journey it has been. We’ve shown that the cloud doesn’t start and end with public hyperscale offerings, and that public sector organisations can enjoy the medicinal benefits of the cloud without having to worry about runaway costs or bill shock.

As well as this, we have expanded our platform to include not just VMware, but OpenStack, OpenShift and Microsoft Azure. Our multi-cloud focus has helped accelerate cloud adoption, whether that be through initial cloud migration projects, such as our work with a County Council or more transformative ones like our work with Capgemini.

However, throughout all this success, we’ve realised we can do more. Secure cloud capabilities shouldn’t be limited to civil government and healthcare. We also want to help defence organisations tackle digital inertia through the use of multi-cloud. And although the government continues to push a Cloud First policy (a mandatory policy for government and a strong recommendation to the wider public sector), the defence sector faces a particularly tough challenge. Yet, Phil Jones, Executive Director of Service Delivery and Operations at the MoD, said at a recent event that “not running a successful digital transformation is just not an option” for defence organisations.

 

"Not running a successful digital transformation is just not an option." - Phil Jones, Executive Director of Service Delivery and Operations at MoD.

 

And this statement cannot be ignored.

With the introduction of a cloud solution that is able to host Tier 2 sensitive government data, there would no longer be reason for defence and national security organisations to tentatively embrace cloud-enabled technologies.

And thus our journey to develop the first UK Defence Cloud began.

 

 

How is Defence Cloud different to regular cloud?

How is a defence cloud platform any different to a normal cloud platform? Surely a cloud platform is the same across the board for all public sector organisations?

This is true for a lot of providers who cannot offer the critical assurance needed by the organisations crying out for a robust and innovative digital strategy.

Protecting defence organisations’ data is of critical importance. This data has become of great interest to Nation States, organised crime and opportunists, and as such is highly sensitive in its nature. Therefore, before the cloud can even be considered an option, potential users need to be left under no illusion that the correct procedures and assurances are in place. A defence cloud solution needs to be accredited to the same standards that their own internal departments are measured against.

Data simply cannot be compromised. Lives depend on it.

So, unlike a standard cloud platform, every part of a defence cloud needs to be secure. This involves having security classifications and controls that are tailored and monitored to suit defence organisations’ needs. It involves having the best and most up to date disaster recovery and cyber security software. Defence and national security require the highest level of security, so inevitably there are greater challenges which need to be overcome to deliver successful solutions.

 

Defence Cloud: Enabling the next stage of Defence Digital

Having built our successful public sector platform, we realised there was a growing demand for cloud in defence. With no options suitable for their needs, these organisations were stuck working with their inefficient, costly solutions. Since the early days of UKCloud, we received numerous queries regarding hosting above-OFFICIAL workloads.

 

"With no options suitable for their needs, Defence organisations were stuck working with inefficient, costly solutions."

 

Our footprints were already printed across the whole of the public sector, and with a constant flow of queries coming in, there was an undeniable demand for defence cloud. A digital solution for defence organisations which didn’t compromise – not on security, flexibility or choice – didn’t break the bank, and didn’t tie organisations down.

At the time, our presence in defence and national security was minimal. But having seen such demand for defence cloud, and neglect for these organisations to embrace digital, we realised it was time for things to change. The highly sensitive nature of defence data and critical workloads requires a cloud that can do so much more than what it was currently capable of.

Building the UK’s first defence cloud would finally present defence organisations with the opportunity to transform. The ability to store defence and national security data within a High Assurance cloud facility would help defence organisations realise the medicinal benefits of the cloud and remove the shackles holding them back from further innovation. Opportunities which have been denied to the sector for too long.

Further to this is the issue of sovereignty. Storing defence and national security workloads anywhere other than the UK presents itself as a significant and unnecessary risk. We need to look back no further than the recent Schrems II judgement, which found that under surveillance laws, the US government has access to personal data with no privacy protections, to highlights its significance.

With these alarm bells ringing, we started to develop our Tier 2 offering in 2018 and, in a commitment to our new focus on digitally maturing defence organisations, launched our defence brand, UKCloudX.

 

Why are cloud offerings rarely fit for purpose in Defence?

Organisations across the whole public sector have evolving requirements and demands in all areas of operation. As always, finding feasible solutions to enhance these operations and performances is the challenge. This too, applies for cloud solutions.

With cloud technologies emerging as a necessity in both the public and private sectors, it is vital organisations ‘get things right the first time’. However, this isn’t as straightforward as it appears; 87% of public sector organisations agree they’d move all of their IT systems to the cloud if the perfect solution existed. The ‘perfect IT solution’ is something every organisation aspires to find. A combination of flexibility, scalability and affordability are all key factors which come into play when organisations consider the options available. Due to the varying demands different organisations have across different industries and sectors, the ‘perfect solution’ is perceived differently from organisation to the next.

 

87% Public sector organisations agree they’d move all IT systems to the cloud if the perfect solution existed. UKCloud State of Cloud Adoption Report.

 

But why is the right solution hard to find?

As a result of niche and varied requirements across the public sector, cloud solutions are often unable to check every box. Ultimately this is a disadvantage that comes with doing business with hyperscalers – the public sector needs tailored solutions, but hyperscalers can’t always offer that. With the provision of generic, ‘off the shelf’ offerings, hyperscalers’ solutions aren’t always the most suitable, and this is certainly true for defence, and particularly pertinent for legacy applications.

This is where UKCloudX plays a pivotal role. Primarily focusing on delivering genuine value and quality customer service to defence and national security, UKCloudX tailor their solutions in consumption-based, flexible packages. Ultimately, aiming to deliver cloud offerings which can be described as ‘fit for purpose’.

 

Applying the Knowledge

Through UKCloudX’s experience in serving the defence sector, we’ve found that defence organisations find it difficult to experiment and embrace digital innovation. This is most likely due to extortionate capital expenditure requirements and red-tape. When one side is saying that “not running a digital transformation is just not an option”, but embracing transformation is an overwhelmingly challenging, there’s no wonder defence organisations feel backed into a corner.

Something had to change – transforming the mission is crucial to maintaining our world-leading defence status, and in combatting emerging digital threats.

Additionally, challenges for defence organisations include commitment to inflexible, multi-year contracts which are unable to deliver on ageing requirements and the usage of out-dated infrastructure. These factors are hindering organisations’ ability to modernise, evolve, and innovate.

To help organisations within the defence sector combat these challenges, UKCloudX offer solutions at a Tier 2 level with pay-as-you-go billing and no long-term contracts. Something that suits organisations with budgets constrained down to the ground. Digital Transformation is an ongoing process – we will not punish you for taking your next steps, whether that be with us, or elsewhere. We do not charge for data ingress or egress, something that can’t always be said for other cloud service providers.

 

“Digital Transformation is an ongoing process – we will not punish you for taking your next steps, whether that be with us, or elsewhere. We do not charge for data ingress or egress, something that can’t always be said for other cloud service providers.”

 

UKCloudX provides a secure, scalable and cost-effective above-OFFICIAL platform for hosting virtual machines (VMs) of various sizes with different service levels. The Tier 2 cloud is hosted in List X data centres and is only available via networks such as SLI, ROSA or networks with high-grade encryption.

Flexibility within contracts also allows organisations to manage their expenditure, enabling them to scale-up, scale-down or add-in additional features as and when demand requires it.

By adopting UKCloudX’s defence cloud solution, organisations no longer have to rely on ageing hardware and overpopulated data centres and can avoid expensive extended-support contracts. The flexibility of a defence cloud allows organisations, who are perhaps risk adverse, to ‘dip their toe in the water’ and experiment with cloud technologies by starting small and growing. Remember, cloud adoption is a marathon, not a sprint. Choose the right provider, and slowly build up to a cloud solution which suits your organisation.

If you want to learn more about starting your digital journey, you can contact one of our cloud experts. If you’ve been inspired to come up with a cloud strategy, but don’t know where to start, our professional services team are always on hand to help.