Government seeks £700m data centre partner for top secret info

The Cabinet Office in London

The government has submitted a tender for a new data centre partner to host official and top secret data from 2015.

Valued between £50m and £700m, the tender presents a lucrative opportunity to existing UK data centre providers with the experience and capability to handle secure data.

With the tender specifying the need for multiple data centres, it is currently unclear whether the partner would be required to construct new data centres for the government’s use or provide space and servers in several colocation environments.

V3 approached the Cabinet Office for comment on this but had not received a response at the time of publication.

The tender document shows that the contract will last for four years and will require the partner to meet a series of requirements as well as provide servers, networks and cabling.

These requirements include: “[A] proven ability to deliver reliable, value for money, high quality, efficient, secure data centre facilities in the UK […] Greater transparency over service utilisation, costs and supplier margins.”

On a technical-level, the data centre partner will need to supply multiple data centres with n+1 operational capacity and floor space for 150 standard 42u racks.

A new limited company known as DatacentreCo is being set up by the government to facilitate the partnership. The winner of the tender will hold a 75 percent majority stake in the company, with the other 25 percent being held by the government.

Early users of the facilities will include Department of Work and Pensions, the Home Office and the Highways Agency, the tender documents notes.

The move forms part of the government’s Cloud First policy, which will see public sector applications migrate to the cloud. In a blog post about the data centre deal, the government’s chief technology officer, Liam Maxwell, said he believes the policy will help the government catch up with the latest IT technology.

“The Cloud First policy has brought a new level of competitiveness to getting cloud services – and for our new services it will bring government in line with the technology market for the first time.”

This will require DatacentreCo and its majority partner to have the ability to provide scalable, services-based models so that suitable applications can be moved over to the public cloud.

Maxwell added that cloud hosting will help public-sector organisations move towards a modern cloud-based infrastructure without needing to immediately abandon legacy systems.

As the government currently holds a huge amount of old data that cannot be shifted to cloud-based platforms any time soon, DatacentreCo will also be required to host legacy applications not suitable, or too expensive, to migrate to the cloud.

Maxwell said: “There is a large legacy estate that cannot make this transition in the short to medium term. This tin requires some form of ongoing hosting provision. Crown Hosting will deliver the legacy facilities and infrastructure services for those applications that cannot transfer to the cloud.”

Both public- and private-sector companies can reap many benefits from cloud hosting as V3 explores in a recent article on the top 10 cloud benefits of cloud computing.

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