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

An NHS Scotland schooling system has strike back again at accusations that a ten years-lengthy

An NHS Scotland schooling system has strike back again at accusations that a ten years-lengthy cloud offer signed with Amazon Internet Expert services (AWS) in excess of twelve months back is anti-innovation, anti-competitive and places the organisation at superior-chance of lock-in.

The £15m agreement was awarded to AWS by NHS Training for Scotland (NES) in April 2020, but the agreement award observe was only manufactured general public in early May perhaps 2021. Since then the facts of the offer have been the issue of considerably critique inside the governing administration IT supplier community, Computer system Weekly has acquired.

Many users of the IT supplier community expressed their misgivings about the offer, on affliction of anonymity, to Computer system Weekly with considerably of the criticism they shared focusing on the “extraordinary” duration of the agreement. As said in the unique tender, the agreement is set to operate for a hundred and twenty months.

According to the complainants Computer system Weekly has spoken to, the contracts phrases are “anti-competitive” and “completely out of step” with how general public sector cloud contracts are envisioned to be carried out.

“We now have a monopoly that has locked in a general public sector organisation for ten several years and locked out the opposition for ten several years, like the United kingdom tech market place and SMEs,” just one supplier advised Computer system Weekly.  

The United kingdom government’s various cloud procurement frameworks restrict the duration of contracts to a utmost of 5 several years on the foundation that shorter agreement phrases make it easier for general public sector customers to update their technological know-how stacks as necessary, though fostering a competitive environment for suppliers – specially SMEs – to run in.

Against this context, Rob Anderson, principal analyst for central governing administration at exploration organization GlobalData, reported he understands why the offer duration is elevating eyebrows.

“Ten several years is ridiculously lengthy for a cloud agreement simply because the [technological know-how] environment is altering so quickly,” he advised Computer system Weekly.

“When the United kingdom government’s G-Cloud procurement framework was set up in 2012, the utmost agreement expression was two several years. And even though the tech has matured, the agreement phrases now are continue to now only a few to 5 several years on the Cloud Compute Framework the governing administration declared not long ago.”  

In a assertion to Computer system Weekly, an NES spokesperson performed down the contract’s duration. “It is not automatically for ten several years: there are crack factors for the duration of that period of time if essential.”

According to resources who participated in the procurement process, the agreement with AWS to begin with runs for 5 several years, but there is an choice to prolong it by a additional 5 several years devoid of needing to re-tender the offer.  

Even with these phrases in location, the nature of what NES will be working with AWS for indicates it is liable to obtain it complicated to migrate to a various hosting supplier need to it will need to afterwards down the line, claimed just one supplier, which could stifle the organisation’s ability to innovate in long run.

“Any personal savings manufactured by altering the hosting supplier, for illustration, would be massively negated by the prices of rewriting the apps [hosted on best of it]. So are the NES crack clauses meaningful? I imagine not,” they included.

In response to promises the offer is anti-innovation, the NES spokesperson reported the platform does allow for for other suppliers to build features on best of the underlying AWS infrastructure, which will foster innovation and present a way in for other functions afterwards down the line.

“The likely for innovation is less about which cloud supplier is getting employed, and far more about what can be created on best of the platform. We appear forward to discovering this with other suppliers in the long run,” the spokesperson included.

Plotting out the route to procurement

AWS is recognized to have commenced perform on the project in April 2020, but suppliers have queried why it took until finally twelve May perhaps 2021 for Amazon to be publicly named as NES’s picked cloud supplier.

“It is normal exercise for there to be a delay between awarding a agreement and publishing the facts, though we perform out the facts of how the agreement and services will be structured,” the NES assertion included. “The enhanced time on this occasion was a function of the unparalleled pressure that all NHS services have been below.”

The NES also favoured a “competitive technique with negotiation” procurement mechanism for this agreement, which has also been called into problem by suppliers specified that it is considered to be an “onerous and complex” system of procuring services that can demonstrate off-placing to SMEs.

“It is a technique that is generally reserved for outsourcing-model arrangements,” an additional supplier included.

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

According to the Scottish government’s Procurement Journey web site, the competitive technique with negotiation procurement mechanism is created so general public sector organisations can make clear the submissions they have acquired with the bidders after they have acquired a “fully-formed preliminary tender”.

“You need to use this technique if you are unable to determine how to fulfill your requirements technically and/or you are unable to specify the authorized or money specifications of your agreement,” the web site included, before citing that it can be employed for “complex purchases” involving “major information and facts and conversation technological know-how tools”.

In its assertion to Computer system Weekly, the NES spokesperson reported the use of this procurement mechanism is commonplace across NHS Scotland.

“This is a typical technique across NHS Scotland, following Scottish governing administration recommendations, aimed at searching for the appropriate supplier at very best worth for income,” the assertion included.

“This agreement was awarded in April 2020 following general public agreement recommendations and searching for very best worth for taxpayers’ income.”

AWS reported it has no remark to make at this time.