The G-Cloud UK government-backed initiative is dying because of a lack of commitment from the various public bodies supposed to be backing it, according to one of its leading supporters, cloud hosting provider Memset. 

Memset has been a strong backer of the G-Cloud, established by the UK government in 2012 to ease public sector IT services procurement, but has received a “pitiful return” on a considerable investment in the scheme, according to a blog post by Memset CEO Kate Craig-Wood. Memset has concentrated on providing Government cloud services, including the provision of a public sector implementation of the OpenStack open source cloud infrastructure platform.

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– Thinkstock / Luke Abrahams

Investment required

Although Memset turns over less than £10 million per year, it was required to invest £2 million ($2,860,500) in a data center as well as an extra £550,000 ($786,640) for combined security mechanisms – plus an extra £320,000 ($457,680) per year to maintain these measures.

This investment has only produced a return of about £100,000 ($143,025) from the service, she said, and Memset has had no new business from G-Cloud since 2013.

For G-Cloud to be a success it is necessary for buyers - public bodies requiring cloud services – to diverge from their normal behaviour and place their trust in the approved service providers. This has not happened, according to Craig-Wood.

Similarly, the Digital Marketplace purchasing platform, formerly the App Store, misses key functions such as a like-for-like price comparison service and a publicly available feedback system.

Craig-Wood also  criticized the government’s reluctance to spend on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS) – these constituted only 20 percent of investment in the G-Cloud in 2015.

Failing to back OpenStack 

Memset is one of a handful of providers on the G-Cloud to run OpenStack, she said, the open source cloud platform which, under the government’s Open Standards mandate, the UK public sector should be supporting. The mandate says “more accessible services can only be delivered by a truly open process: open to those who use our public services, and open to suppliers, of all sizes, so that competition and innovation can deliver improved services.”

OpenStack is ”the only thing that can possibly hope to stand against the might of AWS’s IaaS and Azure’s PaaS in the long term,” she said, but there is no interest in using it, something she says “isn’t even funny”.   

The G-Cloud and other open initiatives began optimistically, but have hit the buffers, said Craig-Wood, who served as technical architecture co-lead on Phase Two of the G-Cloud in 2009: “They were exciting, heady times – we had a dream of punching through archaic government procurement requirements with an online ‘App Store’ and use the unleashed the power of highly-commoditized Cloud services to both improve the quality and reduce the cost of government IT.”  

The reality has been deeply disappointing: “I have been a vocal supporter ever since, even in the face of depressingly slow progress, but today I have finally had enough. The dream is dying.”

In spite of G-Cloud’s failings, Memset has attracted unexpected business from sectors such as finance, healthcare, and government business through other routes, she said, as a result of improvements to the company’s security stance that were dictated by Government as part of the service.

The company will nonetheless continue to provide services to the public sector: “We’re not turning our back on government. We’ll still be here, helping those enlightened few among the public sector to save money with high-efficiency, high-security Open Standards IaaS/PaaS, but it will be on our terms.

“I’m tired of chasing a vision that nobody else seems to be committed to,” she said.