GDS chap: is better off on public cloud than its own purpose-built network

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The Cabinet Office wants government departments to buy public cloud rather than services from the Public Services Network (PSN).

In a blog post on Friday, James Stewart, director of technical architecture and head of technology at the Government Digital Service, indicted that the PSN would be wound down. He said the government is “on a journey away from the PSN”.

“Of course, it’s not going to happen immediately,” he said. “Organisations that need to access services that are only available on the PSN will still need to connect to it for the time being.

“They’ll need to continue to meet its assurance requirements, and in fact they should make use of the practices that covers when reviewing all their core IT.”

He said as government moves more of its systems to public cloud services “the expectation that we’ll communicate over the PSN can cause confusion and adds complexity for public sector organisations and our suppliers”.

The PSN went live in 2011 and was intended to act as a “network of networks” with suppliers selling PSN services over the top.

At the time, the then Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said the network would drive savings and efficiencies by removing duplicate network connections.

However, uptake of the network has been patchy, with some arguing that the UK government’s G-Cloud procurement initiative had superseded its purpose.

All central government departments connect to the PSN in whole or in part, either directly or via a legacy system, the Cabinet Office said in 2015.

But it noted that some departments such as the Home Office and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs lease separate networks to provide connectivity for their staff and for specific standalone functions.

Des Ward, director for information governance at Innopsis, the representative body for public sector connectivity providers, welcomed the security advice around public cloud services.

But he cautioned that public sector providers must ensure that internet services are resilient, particularly those offering critical services.

“It’s important we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” ®



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