The company is one of the key UK SMEs that has benefitted from the government’s SME strategy and its digital procurement vehicles, such as the G-Cloud, by offering assured hosted services specifically for public sector clients.
UKCloud aims to offer the scalability and flexibility of the public cloud giants, but provide reassurance for government buyers that the data will remain in the UK. By solely focusing on the UK public sector, UKCloud also has garnered a reputation for specific expertise in digital government.
However, the technology provider does face an ongoing challenge from AWS, where government departments have been ploughing money into the US giant. UKCloud believes that by offering a more flexible solution, that allows buyers to place workloads in environments that best suit there needs, whilst guaranteeing sovereignty, it will continue to be able to take on Amazon.
The announcement out today sees UKCloud combine Microsoft’s Azure stack hybrid cloud offering with its own government-grade platform, which is powered by Cisco’s integrated infrastructure. UKCloud’s delivery can be extended via the Azure stack into the same data centre campuses as Crown Hosting, which UKCloud claims will create “new hybrid opportunities for the UK public sector”.
The offering is in Beta, but customers have already been on-boarded, according to UKCloud.
I got the chance to speak to UKCloud’s Cloud Strategist, Bill Mew, ahead of the announcement. Mew said that one of the main benefits of the multi-cloud approach, using Azure, is the close proximity to other key public sector workloads. He said that this is “one of the core benefits of getting multi-cloud from a single vendor, rather than different cloud services from all over the place”.
There is an increasing use of cloud in the public sector. It’s an ongoing legacy tech issue that most of our clients are having to deal with day-to-day. We could talk at length about how much progress is actually being made at this moment in time, but what this announcement is about is ensuring that there is the appropriate infrastructure there to make this happen, when organisations are ready to do this.
Cloud first has been around for a very long time and has been a mantra of the government. It’s the way in which our organisations within the public sector are able to reach the cloud and there’s no single cloud that’s going to solve all of their problems.
We have clients that have a significant existing Oracle estate, they have an existing Microsoft estate, they’ve got a large virtualised estate - many of the different workloads that they’re currently running that haven’t made it to the cloud, they need to find the best and reasonable outcome for those workloads in order to take them into a more digitised environment.
What we are trying to do is say that you don’t have to commit to a single public cloud, or a single hybrid environment, there is the possibility here to have the best of all worlds. Given the heterogenous environment that they have, this is a fairly obvious benefit to them.
UKCloud has been quite vocal about the disadvantages of government buyers looking to AWS’ infrastructure as a silver-bullet, given the amount of money that some departments are throwing at the vendor.
Mew said that UKCloud’s multi-cloud environment offers and alternative that gives buyers more flexibility and specificity around where there workloads should be. He said:
Part of it is the lock-in argument. I don’t think we need to be totally obsessed by lock-in. It is something that you need to be aware of. The government [could be] getting into a lock-in in a new environment, having only just escaped a lock-in from a number of key suppliers in the old environment.
The moment you start to script to APIs within AWS, actually then coming to exit it is going to require an enormous amount of work. But we don’t think this is the over-arching theme. The thing that’s more prevalent, is actually having the right platform for each workload.
It’s trying to look at each different workload separately and match the workloads to the environment that it’s most effectively run in.
However, an aside from the looming AWS, Mew also noted that government organisations also need to skill up in order to make any sort of meaningful transition to the cloud. And getting a strategic roadmap in place. He said:
For many of them it’s about getting the ability and the skills to migrate into this environment. But also, it’s actually having a clear strategy of what they’re looking to achieve in the digital environment.
I’ve been following UKCloud closely for years now and it continues to align itself with the needs of government, offering local solutions that provide an alternative to the US giants. That being said, partnering with Microsoft to include the Azure platform as part of its stack is savvy - there’s a lot of demand in the public sector for Azure and UKCloud recognises that it needs to be where the demand is.