UK Public Sector IT Needs Open Standards To Thrive, Says Tech Leader

Mar 24, 2016

Kate Craig-Wood, MD of Memset, SME supplier of cloud infrastructure to the government, this week called for renewed efforts to form a community around open standards when speaking at Tuesday's landmark G-Cloud THINK.Cloud for Digital Government conference in London.

When asked whether the arrival of large US companies presented a threat, she said, "Amazon Web Services is presently overwhelmingly dominant in private sector IaaS. This is because they cleverly created an ecosystem of companies who build and innovate on their platform. They then duplicate or acquire those innovations. Google can be viewed similarly in SaaS and PaaS, and is playing catch-up fast in IaaS."

"The only way to stand against them - whether in the private or public sector - is by customers and suppliers all collaborating through open standards and open source software. Even the unlikliest of open source adopters, Microsoft, has seen this. It isn't just in suppliers' interests. Once their competition is eliminated AWS, Google, et al will inevitably exploit vendor lock-in at the customers' expense. If we do not come together as a community then government will be having to go through this all again in a decade trying to break apart a new oligopoly."

To date, most G-Cloud sales have gone through just 30 suppliers, and the majority of infrastructure spend has been on proprietary systems. Craig-Wood said, "Despite the 'open standards' mandate, that spend is understandable since most existing applications run on proprietary stacks like VMware/EMC, and thus are easier to 'lift and shift' into a similar cloud. However, I do not see how business models like VMware's can survive the IaaS war. OpenStack's adoption and maturity grows by the day. It will become increasingly hard to justify defying the mandate."

No Vendor Lock In

Whilst many would argue that the Cabinet Office have already established a community of suppliers and buyers through the G-Cloud initiative, Craig-Wood argues this is simply not the case. “G-Cloud was originally envisioned as a diverse ecosystem based on common standards, glued together by a central marketplace, bringing about a new paradigm of better, lower-cost, higher-security public sector ICT services with transparency and no vendor lock-in. That commoditisation of services will will also cause increased consumption thanks to Jevon's Paradox - everyone wins! We are not there yet. Right now we are fragmented, with little transparency and divisive mentalities on both government and supply side.”

Craig-Wood continued, “There have been blockers, but we now have the common foundations upon which to build that ecosystem; the simplified, functional PSN and sensible new security standards.

"I'm not advocating protectionism nor saying we shouldn't compete with each other - that is at the heart of Britain's free trade spirit and inspires innovation - I'm just saying that we should keep in mind how to usher in the new paradigm: With open standards, open source, and together!”

(c) 2016 24n.biz

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Anjilo smith
28/09/2017 08:20

Anjilo smith
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Very helpful piece - next months think cloud event focuses at least in part on local government use of cloud
Jos creese
25/03/2016 09:12

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