NHS Education for Scotland defends ‘decade-long’ public cloud deal with AWS

An NHS Scotland teaching overall body has hit again at accusations that a 10 years-lengthy cloud offer signed with Amazon World-wide-web Services (AWS) above twelve months in the past is anti-innovation, anti-competitive and places the organisation at significant-risk of lock-in.

The £15m contract was awarded to AWS by NHS Schooling for Scotland (NES) in April 2020, but the contract award see was only manufactured public in early Might 2021. Due to the fact then the information of the offer have been the subject of considerably critique within just the governing administration IT supplier group, Laptop or computer Weekly has acquired.

Numerous users of the IT supplier group expressed their misgivings about the offer, on situation of anonymity, to Laptop or computer Weekly with considerably of the criticism they shared concentrating on the “extraordinary” size of the contract. As stated in the first tender, the contract is set to operate for one hundred twenty months.

In accordance to the complainants Laptop or computer Weekly has spoken to, the contracts phrases are “anti-competitive” and “completely out of step” with how public sector cloud contracts are expected to be conducted.

“We now have a monopoly that has locked in a public sector organisation for ten a long time and locked out the competition for ten a long time, which includes the British isles tech industry and SMEs,” a person supplier informed Laptop or computer Weekly.  

The British isles government’s a variety of cloud procurement frameworks limit the size of contracts to a highest of five a long time on the basis that shorter contract phrases make it less difficult for public sector potential buyers to upgrade their technologies stacks as wanted, whilst fostering a competitive ecosystem for suppliers – notably SMEs – to run in.

Versus this context, Rob Anderson, principal analyst for central governing administration at investigation agency GlobalData, claimed he understands why the offer size is increasing eyebrows.

“Ten a long time is ridiculously lengthy for a cloud contract for the reason that the [technologies] ecosystem is modifying so immediately,” he informed Laptop or computer Weekly.

“When the British isles government’s G-Cloud procurement framework was set up in 2012, the highest contract term was two a long time. And even even though the tech has matured, the contract phrases now are even now now only 3 to five a long time on the Cloud Compute Framework the governing administration introduced just lately.”  

In a assertion to Laptop or computer Weekly, an NES spokesperson played down the contract’s size. “It is not automatically for ten a long time: there are split details through that period of time if necessary.”

In accordance to sources who participated in the procurement method, the contract with AWS originally operates for five a long time, but there is an selection to lengthen it by a even more five a long time with out needing to re-tender the offer.  

Even with these phrases in position, the mother nature of what NES will be employing AWS for indicates it is liable to locate it difficult to migrate to a diverse hosting service provider ought to it need to later down the line, claimed a person supplier, which could stifle the organisation’s capability to innovate in long term.

“Any savings manufactured by modifying the hosting service provider, for case in point, would be massively negated by the charges of rewriting the applications [hosted on top of it]. So are the NES split clauses meaningful? I assume not,” they added.

In reaction to promises the offer is anti-innovation, the NES spokesperson claimed the platform does permit for other suppliers to develop features on top of the underlying AWS infrastructure, which will foster innovation and provide a way in for other get-togethers later down the line.

“The probable for innovation is considerably less about which cloud service provider is remaining applied, and a lot more about what can be created on top of the platform. We glimpse forward to discovering this with other suppliers in the long term,” the spokesperson added.

Plotting out the route to procurement

AWS is acknowledged to have commenced operate on the project in April 2020, but suppliers have queried why it took until twelve Might 2021 for Amazon to be publicly named as NES’s picked cloud service provider.

“It is ordinary observe for there to be a delay concerning awarding a contract and publishing the information, whilst we operate out the information of how the contract and companies will be structured,” the NES assertion added. “The greater time on this celebration was a attribute of the unparalleled force that all NHS companies have been under.”

The NES also favoured a “competitive technique with negotiation” procurement system for this contract, which has also been known as into dilemma by suppliers supplied that it is regarded to be an “onerous and complex” strategy of procuring companies that can establish off-placing to SMEs.

“It is a technique that is commonly reserved for outsourcing-model arrangements,” another supplier added.

The contract award see confirms that two unnamed suppliers had been also in the functioning for the contract alongside AWS, but none of the bids the tender garnered had been submitted by SMEs.

In accordance to the Scottish government’s Procurement Journey web-site, the competitive technique with negotiation procurement system is designed so public sector organisations can explain the submissions they have obtained with the bidders the moment they have obtained a “fully-formed first tender”.

“You ought to use this technique if you are unable to define how to meet up with your desires technically and/or you cannot specify the lawful or money requirements of your contract,” the web-site added, before citing that it can be applied for “complex purchases” involving “major details and conversation technologies tools”.

In its assertion to Laptop or computer Weekly, the NES spokesperson claimed the use of this procurement system is commonplace across NHS Scotland.

“This is a widespread tactic across NHS Scotland, adhering to Scottish governing administration tips, aimed at trying to get the right service provider at very best price for dollars,” the assertion added.

“This contract was awarded in April 2020 adhering to public contract tips and trying to get very best price for taxpayers’ dollars.”

AWS claimed it has no comment to make at this time.

Rosa G. Rose

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