What is it?

PSN is the trusted, shared infrastructure that connects increasing numbers of organisations delivering public services to each other and to cloud based and hosted services they can use or share. Developed in 2011, after the Cabinet Office asked Industry to design an inclusive eco-system, the PSN was based on common Enterprise standards including performance and service, it’s made up of inter-connected commercial networks from many competing suppliers, so ensuring best value.

Why is it trusted?

To create the right environment for public service providers to share information and services, trust must be established between organisations. The annual PSN compliance process does this by ensuring that both suppliers and customer adhere to appropriate standards including security and technical interoperability. Using existing good practice and standard commercial services wherever possible, this approach creates ‘good and safe’ place for the PSN community to do business at least cost. This way, trust can be established  without direct contracts and previous experience.

How secure is PSN?

PSN provides an Assured Wide Area Network (WAN) suitable for using with information classified as Official (or Protect/IL2 in old terms). All services certified as PSN compliant are pre-accredited to ensure this and so cover the great majority of government requirements. Where information is classified as Official-Sensitive (similar to the old term  Restricted/IL3), then PSN can also meet this need with Protected WAN overlay services, using common agreed encryption or connectivity utilising  the Inter Provider Encryption Domain (IPED).

What’s the objective?

PSN aims to save the Public Sector money by better utilisation of conectivity and a greater choice of consumption and services and enable more efficient and joined-up public services. The initial aim was to provide a demonstrable £500m a year savings. This was achieved in 2013, according to HM Treasury.

What’s the benefit?

PSN saves money straight away by helping consolidate multiple networks, doing away with duplicate connections to other organisations, allowing the purchase of standardised, rather than bespoke services and promoting open and dynamic competition between suppliers.

Most importantly, PSN enables much larger benefits by providing the conduit for shared services, better collaboration and greater efficiency; transforming the way public services are delivered. Digital delivery to the citizen means that the public services ‘supply chain’ of processes, applications and information must be seamless and online too. PSN provides the trusted means to do this across departments, agencies and authorities.

How do I know if a service is ‘PSN’?

Before any supplier’s service can be connected to PSN it must be certified as complying with the relevant PSN standards. PSN compliant services can provide network connectivity plus a wide range of applications including voice, video, conferencing, collaboration, hosting, mail and many others. You can find a list of compliant services and those undergoing certification on the PSN website.
If in doubt, ask your supplier for the PSN compliance certificate for their service.

What about the PSN Frameworks?

Two procurement frameworks were let by the Crown Commercial Service in 2012, covering network connectivity (PSN-Connectivity) and a range of network services (PSN-Services). Although called ‘PSN’, the frameworks include both compliant and non-compliant services. To be clear, a PSN compliant service can be bought through any legitimate procurement mechanism and not solely through the PSN frameworks. Likewise, a listing on the PSN frameworks does not itself mean that a service is PSN compliant. Although extended into 2016, the PSN frameworks are due to be replaced with a new framework in 2015 called Network Services Framework which will list services that are PSN Compliant as an attribute, so removing any confusion between frameworks and compliance.

How do I connect to PSN?

Before connection to PSN as a user, you need to have PSN Compliance. This certifies that your network environment meets the basic requirements to connect to PSN, and ensure that you’re able to share and consume services across the PSN community. Find out more about becoming a customer from the PSN website. You also need to acquire a certified PSN connectivity service, whether that’s a complete WAN or just a single connection into PSN.

How do I make a service available on the PSN?

Any organisation, commercial, public or voluntary, can make services available to consume on PSN. Think of PSN as a ‘wire frame’ connecting hundreds of organisations on which shared services from communications to line of business or critical support applications can be hung. Doing this generally means gaining appropriate PSN certification as a service provider for each individual service before it can be connected to PSN.

More guidance on how to become a service provider is on the PSN website. Innopsis as the industry association for all PSN suppliers provides invaluable support from compliance workshops, networking and information to regular meetings with key stakeholders. PSN services can be sold through any legitimate procurement mechanism including the Digital Marketplace.

What’s the market for PSN services?

There’s a dynamic and open marketplace for PSN network connectivity and services, with many suppliers competing through the PSN frameworks, G-Cloud and other commercial routes. It is estimated that approaching £500m has been spent to date through the PSN frameworks and on PSN compliant services through other channels.  Innopsis is expanding with around 60 members, at least 50% of whom are SMEs entering the growing PSN market.

PSN General Documents and Technical Standards

Ever wondered what a vPoC is? Where does a PoI fit in? What exactly a DNSP is? What is PSN? What documents are in the overalll PSN Standards? The answers are here.

The core of the PSN Operating Model is the Technical Design Document (TDD). This describes the minimal technical standards of PSN Services.

To view or download the documents, please click here

Service Management Framework

In an environment where end to end service may be dependent on suppliers or other consumers who are uncontracted, there has to be a set of rules to obey, a way or working and a common vocabulary that all can understand. There needs to be an agreed ‘way of doing things’, otherwise there will be chaos. This does not have to be difficult or onerous, just following common sense practice.

The Service Management Framework decribes how PSN runs, day to day. For details of the documentation, please click here

Compliance

How does a Supplier or consumer know that any services connected or connecting meet the agreed standards? Compliance provides a short cut to experience. Services and Customer Environments that meet the conditions described in the PSN Operating Model, and can be backed up by verification, also a rapid trust environment to be established.

How is this done? The PSN Compliance documentation provides the information.

To see the documentation, please click here

A new breed of public servants: skills and staffing after the pandemic

A new breed of public servants: skills and staffing after the pandemic

Civil servants have broken new ground during the COVID-19 pandemic – using hackathons, scientific advisory groups and private sector volunteers to shape policy and deliver services, for example. But at the Global Government Summit, it became clear that these innovations may be dwarfed by the changes to come. Matt Ross listens in as leaders debate the future of governance

When the pandemic struck, demand for some public services suddenly spiked. Many countries responded by moving staff between departments and agencies, short-circuiting the usual processes to get people where they were needed; some even reached out to furloughed private sector staff.

“There was a need for surge manpower: we needed people to be safe distancing ambassadors; to distribute masks; to give out COVID support grants,” recalled Jacqueline Po, Deputy Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office Strategy Group in Singapore. “Sectors like aviation and hospitality were quite badly disrupted, and we were able, through our Public Service Division, to channel that manpower to some of the needs of the Public Service. Singapore Airlines stewardesses were helping out, working in hospitals rather than hospitality!”

Ex-NCSC chief Martin asks whether the new cyber strategy will make the UK safer

Ex-NCSC chief Martin asks whether the new cyber strategy will make the UK safer

The signature achievement of the government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign and Development policy was a coherent plan to base future security and prosperity on scientific and technological excellence. The plan has everything need to give it strategic credibility: funding, policy, legislative and governance changes.

But one underdeveloped part of this part of the document is cyberspace.

Despite a narrative emphasis on Britain as a ‘cyber power’ there were no new policies or pounds. The only new ‘announcement’ was that there would be a national cyber strategy later this year. Intriguingly, this is to be a ‘whole of cyber’ strategy, replacing the two previous national cyber security strategies of 2011 and 2016.

This seemingly arcane bureaucratic change matters. That’s because the strategy now incorporates not just the UK’s efforts to secure its digital homeland, but also offensive cyber – hacking others – in support of our own national security.

Government tells NHS Digital to collect sensitive GP records – patients have until 23 June to opt out

Government tells NHS Digital to collect sensitive GP records – patients have until 23 June to opt out

The government has directed NHS Digital to collect sensitive health data in GP records, with citizens given until June 23rd to opt out.

The move, which updates existing practices, has alarmed medConfidential, a group that campaigns for the privacy and confidentiality of health data, which says the measure was not flagged up, and despite promises of anonymisation and encryption of the data the programme may make sensitive data saleable to commercial companies and other third parties, as is already possible with hospital data.

The General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) Directive by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock requires NHS Digital to “establish and operate an information system for the collection and analysis of General Practice data for health and social care purposes,” according to NHS Digital’s website (page since taken down), adding health data should be collected for health and social care purposes that “include but are not limited to health and social care policy, planning and commissioning purposes; public health purposes, including Covid-19 purposes… and research”. Its scope is limited to General Practices in England.

AWS wins yet another UK public-sector contract – this time to provide £15m health data system for NHS Scotland

AWS wins yet another UK public-sector contract – this time to provide £15m health data system for NHS Scotland

NHS Education for Scotland has awarded AWS a £15m contract to host its National Digital Platform, an architecture to share data across the nation’s health service.

The education and training body within NHS Scotland said that the platform would be designed to “create and deploy real time data at the point of care”, “operate to a predictable architecture to enable new and innovative products to be developed and implemented” as well as “enable the use of data at scale for quality improvement and to support research and innovation”, according to a tender notice.

The cloud infrastructure biz is set to host the data platform, including repositories of structured and unstructured clinical data, web services to power web and mobile applications, an integration layer, and web app. The platform is intended to enable the creation and use of information at source and facilitate the interoperability of existing and new healthcare technologies following the publication of the Digital Health and Care Strategy for Scotland in 2018.

EU court says Amazon won’t have to pay its $300 million tax bill

EU court says Amazon won’t have to pay its $300 million tax bill

Amazon has won an EU appeal after being hit with a €250 million ($303 million) tax bill by the European Commission (EC) in 2017, the WSJ has reported. After a similar decision in favor of Apple, the judgement is another setback for the EU in its effort make US tech giants pay more taxes.

While Apple’s case centered around so called “state aid” from Ireland, Amazon came under fire for the use of an operating company based in Luxembourg. From 2006 to 2014, Amazon paid a significant royalty to that company, called Amazon Europe Holding Technologies SAS, reducing its taxable income. The commission accused it of inflating that royalty to reduce its operating profit. (Amazon has since changed its tax structure.)
However, Amazon argued that the decision was full of “methodological errors” and that the payments were legal according to international tax principals. Europe’s second-highest court agreed, ruling that the setup didn’t confer any advantage to Amazon over other companies and that “the contested decision must be annulled in its entirety.” It’s not yet clear if the EC plans to appeal.

2021 Queens Speech Touts Online Safety Bill and Broadband Boost

2021 Queens Speech Touts Online Safety Bill and Broadband Boost

The Queen has today carried out the first State Opening of Parliament since the pandemic began, which sets out the UK Government’s agenda for the coming session. As expected this included various references to gigabit broadband and mobile connectivity, as well as their plans to publish the controversial Online Safety Bill.

As usual the speech is historically more of a ceremonial affair, which often only serves to feed the media with a tiny sliver of new information on forthcoming Government policy and precious little else in the way of detail. On the other hand, you do sometimes get a few surprises and as usual we keep an eye out for anything to do with broadband or telecoms.

In terms of broadband and internet policy, this year there were no huge surprises as most of what the Queen announced has already been reported on before. Most of the policies relate to cutting more red tape and supporting the deployment of new fixed (full fibre) and mobile (4G, 5G) networks via the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme and the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) industry scheme.

Indian government says 5G doesn’t cause COVID-19. Also points out India has no 5G networks

Indian government says 5G doesn’t cause COVID-19. Also points out India has no 5G networks

As COVID-19 continues to ravage India, the nation’s government has told it populace that 5G signals have nothing to do with the spread of the virus – if only because no 5G networks operate in India.

A statement from the nation’s Department of Telecommunications states “several misleading messages are being circulated on various social media platforms claiming that the second wave of coronavirus has been caused by the testing of the 5G mobile towers.”

After pointing out that the very notion is a nonsense, the department points out that India approved 5G trials on May 4th and they won’t start for months.

AWS, Microsoft and Google secure spots on £750m UK government Cloud Compute framework

AWS, Microsoft and Google secure spots on £750m UK government Cloud Compute framework

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft are among the nine suppliers to have secured a place on the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) £750m hyperscale-focused Cloud Compute framework
The four-year framework is set up to allow public and third-sector organisations to purchase cloud infrastructure and platform-as-a-service offerings in high volume directly from suppliers that specialise in the provision of hyperscale, general-purpose compute environments.

“[This framework is] necessarily restricted to pure compute requirements which do not require additional services such as design, detailed configuration, tailoring or any ongoing management or professional services to assist with data migration in or out,” said the original tender notice for the framework.

Framework suppliers must also be able to host and provide their services primarily within the UK, and must be able to point to at least one example of a contract where they have delivered public cloud services to a private or public sector organisation during the last three years, the tender stipulated.

As well as AWS, Google and Microsoft, the other suppliers on the framework are IBM, Oracle, Fordway Solutions, Frontier Technology, UKCloud and UKFast.net.

Working from home, the office and the cloud

Working from home, the office and the cloud

In March, the UK’s largest building society Nationwide announced that its 13,000 staff could choose where to work from. A staff survey showed that 57% wanted to work from home full time, while 36% said they would prefer a mix of office and home-based work. In October 2020, Microsoft advised its employees of its goal to offer as much flexibility as possible. Bill Gates subsequently predicted that more than half of all business travel and more than 30% of days in the office would not return post-pandemic.

These are just two high profile examples of how the response to COVID-19 is changing the way we work. As Nationwide’s Chief Executive noted: “How we do our jobs is more important than where we do them from.”

During the lockdowns, with commuting suspended, many organizations are realizing that they can save costs and have happier employees by supporting flexible working, but this is not set to be all home-based. We’re seeing a shift to a hybrid working environment – part home, part office, and with central ‘hubs’ being created as meeting spaces. Yet while employees have the luxury of choice, employers need to consider the options and create a communications and engagement strategy to keep this new dispersed workforce, and its customers, connected. They also need to ensure that their new ways of working are sustainable in the long term.

Why Companies Are Migrating Legacy Systems to Cloud Infrastructure

Why Companies Are Migrating Legacy Systems to Cloud Infrastructure

At no point in time have industry leaders in IT desired a secure, cost-effective way to access their data more than they have in today’s post-COVID location-distributed world of remote work. It’s no wonder, then, that enterprises are migrating their legacy systems to the cloud with virtualization to reduce infrastructure costs and increase security while allowing their users to connect to business applications from any device at any time.

The migration of legacy systems to the cloud infrastructure typically occurs alongside specific events which, more often than not, relate to the optimization of storage resources and the acceleration of a business’s digital transformation. As the pandemic continues, though, more enterprises are likely to realize just how constrained they are with an on-premise IT infrastructure that can’t accommodate a remote workforce.

As more companies continue to migrate their legacy systems to cloud infrastructure, it’s important to examine the reasons behind their migrations as well as what they should expect once their systems are on the cloud. To that end, let’s dive into the biggest challenges that companies face as they make the move, as well as the most important tips they should bear in mind to make their transition as stress-free and seamless as they can.