The Crown Business Provider (CCS) stands accused of “paying lip service” to smaller providers later embarking on a revamp of the “underused” Cloud Compute Framework to manufacture it extra available to SMEs.
The federal government’s procurement arm is inviting submissions from potential providers for the £1.35bn Cloud Compute 2 framework till 21 August 2023, however Pc Weekly has won various court cases from involved SMEs concerning the framework since its gentle paperwork had been printed on-line ultimate year.
In step with the providers Pc Weekly has spoken to, many on situation of anonymity, the tweaks CCS has presented to manufacture the framework extra SME-friendly fail to walk some distance plethora, with the complainants claiming the obstacles to access to the framework are too grand for smaller providers.
As an example, providers have taken factor with the “onerous” vetting procedures CCS has in park to evaluate the monetary condition of potential members. And they’re additionally unsatisfied concerning the reality CCS is proscribing the choice of to be had slots at the framework for SMEs, life there’s no cap at the choice of spots to be had to the bigger, hyperscale cloud suppliers.
“The level of financial scrutiny, not to mention the administrative burden tied into that, is going to exclude the vast majority of SMEs and put them off applying anyway,” stated a provider supply, who works for an SME cloud provider supplier.
“And when you look at the [tender requirements], it’s almost as if the hyperscalers have been guiding CCS’s hand when they’ve been writing down the requirements to this. They say they want to open it up to SMEs, but when you look at the fine print, they’re paying lip service to competition. Nothing more.”
Alternatively, a supply inside of CCS informed Pc Weekly that any recommendation that the framework is anti-SME must be thought to be large of the mark.
“CCS has a clear and driven focus on making it easier for businesses to bid for work. We understand how important it is to have a diverse range of suppliers working with the public sector,” the supply stated.
“SMEs continue to be a key component of the commercial agreements we create. This new agreement [Cloud Compute 2] supports the government’s SME agenda .”
Following the primary
The primary iteration of the Cloud Compute framework is because of expire in Would possibly 2024. It used to be to begin with pitched as an additional procurement path for people sector consumers with large-scale cloud initiatives that had prior to now been driven during the extra SME-focused G-Cloud framework.
Seven of the 9 providers indexed at the unmarried Batch Cloud Compute 1 framework are US-based hyperscalers, together with Amazon Internet Products and services (AWS), Google, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, with UK-based Fordway and UKFast rounding out the remainder of the listing.
The second one iteration of the Framework, in the meantime, has noticeable the choice of Loads expanded by way of 3 to permit for the inclusion of 2 detached Loads which are in particular centered at SMEs.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the Cloud Compute framework this time around because there were a couple of local providers on it last time, but I don’t think they won any significant business through it, as the direction of travel for government IT spending seems to be towards Amazon Web Services [AWS] and Microsoft Azure,” Rob Anderson, analysis director at IT marketplace watcher GlobalData Era, informed Pc Weekly.
Evidence of that may be noticeable within the G-Cloud word of honour knowledge printed by way of CCS via its Virtual Market portal, which confirms AWS as being that framework’s zenith provider when it comes to the volume of IT spend it has accumulated from people sector organisations.
The information displays that AWS has fasten a complete of £661.25m in people sector cloud spend to-date, with nearly all of that trade coming its approach within the wake of its opening its UK datacentre area in overdue 2016.
In step with the Virtual Market figures, AWS had fasten a complete of £4.5m in people sector cloud spend right through its occasion at the framework as much as the 2016/2017 monetary era, however – within the era later its UK datacentre area opened – this determine shot as much as £21.3m and has persisted to get up ever since.
Microsoft’s figures practice an overly indistinguishable development, with The Virtual Market knowledge confirming – by way of the occasion of the 2016/2017 monetary era – that it had fasten a complete of £7.1m in people sector cloud during the framework. And, within the era following its UK datacentre opening, this determine had risen to £20.4m.
One of the vital trade in sizes AWS, specifically, have fasten via G-Cloud have raised eyebrows a few of the provider society, and this is without doubt one of the explanation why CCS created the Cloud Compute framework within the first park, it’s claimed.
“The reason the Cloud Compute framework exists is because large central government departments were doing substantially sized, direct award deals through G-Cloud, which was considered a misuse of what G-Cloud was originally intended for,” a supply, with near operating wisdom of presidency procurement frameworks informed Pc Weekly on situation of anonymity.
“A prime example is the £120m deal the Home Office struck with AWS, which was done under direct award through G-Cloud.”
In spite of the framework being in particular created to funnel high-value cloud commitments via, this supply claims Cloud Compute 1 has generated only a few offer because it went are living in Would possibly 2021.
“It is no secret that Cloud Compute 1 was a complete disaster for CCS. It is impossible to use and no-one wanted to use it,” the supply persisted.
When Pc Weekly requested CCS concerning the quantity and worth of offer which have been transacted during the Cloud Compute 1 framework to-date, a spokesperson stated it does now not “hold details” of commitments signed by means of this procurement path.
“Public information is available direct from departments on their spends and also through Contracts Finder,” the spokesperson stated.
There is just one trade in (valued at £750,000) that brazenly references the Cloud Compute 1 framework at the govt’s Oath Finder portal, which concerned the supply of Oracle cloud services to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for a proof of concept research project.
Some other supply, operating for a people sector analyst company that tracks govt IT spend showed the above word of honour is the one call-off that maps again to Cloud Compute 1 in its database, and in a similar way described it as a “significantly underused framework”.
This is without doubt one of the explanation why resources declare the federal government has made strikes to detectable up the second one iteration of the framework to SMEs, with CCS describing model two as “expanding on the benefits” of Cloud Compute 1.
“Lessons learnt from [the framework’s first iteration] and feedback we have received during pre-market engagement tells us that SMEs are well positioned to play a critical role in supplying Lot Two (value-added services) and Lot Three (professional services),” stated CCS, in a provider and purchaser often requested questions file, printed on-line.
The “value-added services” Batch is geared toward corporations that wish to resell the services and products of the hyperscale cloud suppliers that stock spots on Batch 1. Batch 3, in the meantime, is for SMEs that serve skilled services and products – reminiscent of cloud-related consultancy, coaching and auditing – to the people sector on a non permanent foundation.
The framework’s fourth and ultimate “Cloud Secure+” Batch, in the meantime, is geared toward people sector customers – particularly the ones within the defence and legislation enforcement sectors – that want a cloud computing circumstance able to processing and storing knowledge with a safety classification of UK Hidden.
The verdict to detectable the framework as much as SME resellers and consultancies is sensible, stated Danny Quinn, managing director of Glasgow-based datacentre services and products supplier DataVita, in a post on the professional social networking site LinkedIn.
“Many smaller public sector entities are not structured to deal directly with these large [hyperscale cloud] providers,” he stated.
He additionally worn the publish to breeze issues that Pc Weekly has heard alternative contributors of the SME cloud society echo in fresh weeks about how the obstacles to access onto Cloud Compute 2 might end up too grand for lots of smaller providers.
He worn the LinkedIn publish to attract particular consideration to the truth CCS desires possible providers to serve a signed buyer reference with a word of honour cost of greater than £20m as a part of their framework software, which would possibly end up tough for lots of SMEs to do.
“While I understand the importance of financial due diligence in such frameworks, it seems this requirement primarily excludes a considerable number of organisations from bidding and disproportionately benefits larger US tech companies,” he wrote within the publish. “In my view, this type of restriction stifles competition and puts other providers at a disadvantage, undermining a fair and level playing field.”
In step with CCS resources, the £20m buyer reference is thought of as an non-compulsory too much that possible bidders can serve if they can, however it’s not necessary.
“No SME (or any other bidder) will be excluded from being able to participate if they are unable to provide this information,” the supply added.
Anti-SME monetary compliance assessments
Pc Weekly has additionally heard issues raised by way of alternative resources inside the SME cloud society concerning the “onerous” and “daunting” vetting procedures that CCS can be imposing to evaluate the monetary condition of potential Cloud Compute 2 suppliers.
Beneath the Bronze, Silver and Gold gadget the Cupboard Place of business makes use of to categorise how noteceable govt commitments are, Cloud Compute 2 is labeled as Gold total, this means that this can be a top-tier framework when it comes to complexity and criticality.
“Gold contracts are typically larger, longer contracts for complex or critical works and services,” as mentioned within the govt’s Assessing and monitoring the economic and financial standing of bidders and suppliers June 2023 steerage be aware.
Batch One and 4 at the framework are categorised as being Gold, while Loads Two and 3 are labeled as being Silver and Bronze, respectively.
Providers wishing to manufacture it onto Loads One and 4 can be matter to a “very detailed financial assessment” to “assess the bidders’ financial capacity to perform the contract” and to cancel “financially challenged suppliers” being appointed to govt frameworks, in step with the federal government’s steerage be aware.
Providers vying for a park on Batch Two and 3 can be matter to much less hard monetary assessments, as a result of commitments awarded via those Loads most often have a tendency to be shorter in space and guard paintings that is thought of as to be noteceable, however non-critical.
Even so, a supply with near operating wisdom of the framework, stated life Batch Two and 3 suppliers can be matter to a extra unsophisticated stage of monetary review, the method concerned can be very time- and resource-consuming for the typical SME.
“It will be hellish process for the big providers, let alone SMEs,” stated the supply. “The financial risk assessment template that all bidders will need to complete is going to be very daunting for SMEs.”
Constraining the marketplace
Some other part of the framework that providers have taken problems with is the truth CCS is proscribing the choice of providers who can take part in Loads Two and 3, but it surely has imposed incorrect limits at the choice of hyperscalers who can take part in Loads One and 4.
There are areas for 30 suppliers on Batch Two, while the quantity who can take part in Batch 3 is restricted to 60.
Owen Sayers, a knowledge coverage legal professional with greater than two decades’ revel in of operating on people sector IT commitments, is amongst the ones baffled by way of the verdict to impose limits at the Loads that seem to serve essentially the most quantity of alternative for SMEs to take part on this framework.
“While HM government will allow anyone who meets the basic quality requirements on to Lot One and Lot Four, the market is very constrained in Lot Two and Lot Three, which is arguably where the UK has the greatest mass [of SMEs],” Sayers informed Pc Weekly.
And life SMEs aren’t explicitly opposed from making use of for a park on Batch One or Batch 4, the chance of a smaller provider succeeding on that entrance is low, Sayers persisted.
“To be in Lot One, you must operate your own cloud platform at Official or Official-Secret, and there are not many of those [types of SMEs] around now. To be in Lot Four, the same is true but at Secret [level], and they are even rarer,” he stated. “How do SMEs get a slice of any of those pieces when up against the big names?”
Some other bone of competition with the framework centres at the approach Loads One and Loads Two are connected in combination, as a result of Batch Two is geared toward SMEs that wish to resell cloud services and products of the hyperscalers in Batch One.
As according to the phrases and situations of the framework, potential Batch Two members will have to stipulate of their submissions which cloud suppliers they wish to resell the services and products of, they usually won’t be able to manufacture any adjustments to that over the process the framework’s lifetime.
A CCS supply stated this rule exists to “enable compliant awards at the call-off” degree however Batch Two providers won’t face any restrictions at the choice of cloud suppliers they wish to title of their bid, which must allay their issues in this level.
In other places within the phrases and situations of the Cloud Compute 2 framework, it does surrounding that if the cloud suppliers the SME desires to resell the services and products of include unsuccessful in securing a park on Cloud Compute 2, the reseller in query may also be denied a park at the framework.
“Resellers can initially name as many cloud service supplier partners as they wish as part of this process to be appointed to the framework, but a successful bidder to Lot Two once on the framework may only offer to resell a cloud service which has also successfully been appointed to Lot One under any Lot Two call-off procedure,” the phrases and situations file mentioned.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Lot Two bidders’ lists will be considered final at [the] tender submission… [so] successful Lot Two bidders cannot increase their cloud service supplier list available to buyers on this framework throughout the lifetime of this agreement because they will be pre-qualified on the basis of the experience they have of the initially named cloud services.”
In step with a supply operating for a consultancy that advises IT providers on how you can win govt trade, an unexpected factor that some would-be Batch 2 providers are suffering with is that their favoured hyperscaler won’t say if they’re making plans to use for a park at the framework or now not.
And so the SME resellers are left weighing up possibly sooner it’s utility their life making use of for inclusion on Cloud Compute 2, given the executive burden concerned.
“That is the big problem with Lot Two,” the supply stated. “If you’re bidding for resale, you need to be sure that your chosen hyperscalar is bidding to be part of Lot One, and nobody can seem to get an answer out of AWS or Microsoft on that,” they added.
What would possibly manufacture the framework extra interesting to SMEs is the problems that some are having with the 13th iteration of G-Cloud. That is amid claims inflation is consuming into the margins of a few providers to such an extent it is thought of as to be a commercially unviable framework for them.
Pc Weekly shared the comments from the SME provider society concerning the Cloud Compute 2 Framework with a spokesperson for the Cupboard Place of business, which acts because the sponsoring branch for CCS.
In reaction the spokesperson stated the branch is operating to decrease the obstacles to access for SMEs within the cloud marketplace the use of the framework by way of “providing additional Lots and expending the agreement’s scope”.
Along with this, the spokesperson identified that CCS has larger its spend with SME providers by way of “over £300m” right through the 2022-2023 monetary era, and over 70% of the providers it engages may also be categorised as micro, miniature or medium-sized enterprises.
The spokesperson added: “We want to make it as easy as possible for small businesses to win government contracts and we design commercial agreements with SMEs in mind, including through engaging with them before contracts are put out to tender.”