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The launch of G-Cloud and the government CloudStore last year was a major endorsement of the notion of cloud computing. Many enterprises were still feeling hesitant about taking their first steps into cloud purchasing but the availability of a government-run apps store changed the nature of the game, conferring instant respectability on the concept of cloud delivery.
But where does G Cloud go from here? Well, we know the short answer to that; it launches Giii, the third iteration of the initiative but that launch masks several issues.
There’s been the (slightly manufactured) controversy as to whether the new launch has watered down the concept of cloud too much and whether by expanding the range of software being offered
There is an issue here. There are so many companies indulging in cloudwashing that it doesn’t help if the government is seen to be doing the same. However, I can’t follow the logic that Giii is diluting the nature of cloud in such a way that the very term is being distorted.
There is another issue and that’s just how successful has the initiative been. In the government blog announcing the launch of Giii, Peter Middleton said that last year saw about £4m’s worth of sales as if that’s a stupendous landmark to have reached.
It’s a reasonable start but placed in the context of public sector procurement, it’s little more than a departmental expense account. In November 2011, Computer Weekly revealed that 70 percent of all government software spend was on Oracle licences and that dominance by one company shows how far the government has to go if it's set to break
Of course, it’s still early days; very early days but if the government initiative is going to come to anything, it’s got to start shaking up some of those big contracts. Last July, government CIO Andy Nelson told me that he was disappointed that only 30 organisations had bought services through CloudStore, while that figure has risen since then, we're still very much at the try-out stage.
We're clearly not going to see those long-term Oracle and Microsoft contracts being superseded within a few months - there's an entrenched way of working to be overcome - but by expanding the scope of G-Cloud the government is setting out a path for the future.
These are going to be some crucial months for the G Cloud project. While no-one is expecting it to capture a large share of public sector procurement, there needs to be more than a handful of users. There also needs to be more of a breakthrough in the local government sector, an area where take-up has been slow. It's been a promising beginning but G Cloud iii is going to be a real defining moment in the success of cloud.