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

Victoria D. Doty

An NHS Scotland teaching entire body has strike back again at accusations that a 10 years-very long cloud deal signed with Amazon Website Products and services (AWS) above 12 months back is anti-innovation, anti-competitive and puts the organisation at higher-risk of lock-in.

The £15m contract was awarded to AWS by NHS Education and learning for Scotland (NES) in April 2020, but the contract award recognize was only designed public in early Might 2021. Due to the fact then the specifics of the deal have been the matter of considerably critique in just the governing administration IT supplier group, Pc Weekly has acquired.

Quite a few users of the IT supplier group expressed their misgivings about the deal, on situation of anonymity, to Pc Weekly with considerably of the criticism they shared concentrating on the “extraordinary” size of the contract. As said in the initial tender, the contract is set to operate for a hundred and twenty months.

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

“We now have a monopoly that has locked in a public sector organisation for ten many years and locked out the competitors for ten many years, together with the United kingdom tech industry and SMEs,” one supplier advised Pc Weekly.  

The United kingdom government’s various cloud procurement frameworks restrict the size of contracts to a maximum of five many years on the basis that shorter contract phrases make it a lot easier for public sector buyers to up grade their technological know-how stacks as necessary, although fostering a competitive natural environment for suppliers – notably SMEs – to run in.

In opposition to this context, Rob Anderson, principal analyst for central governing administration at exploration organization GlobalData, reported he understands why the deal size is raising eyebrows.

“Ten many years is ridiculously very long for a cloud contract simply because the [technological know-how] natural environment is transforming so immediately,” he advised Pc Weekly.

“When the United kingdom government’s G-Cloud procurement framework was set up in 2012, the maximum contract term was two many years. And even though the tech has matured, the contract phrases now are however now only 3 to five many years on the Cloud Compute Framework the governing administration announced recently.”  

In a statement to Pc Weekly, an NES spokesperson played down the contract’s size. “It is not essentially for ten many years: there are crack factors through that time period if needed.”

According to sources who participated in the procurement method, the contract with AWS at first runs for five many years, but there is an solution to prolong it by a further more five many years without needing to re-tender the deal.  

Even with these phrases in spot, the character of what NES will be making use of AWS for means it is liable to uncover it tough to migrate to a diverse web hosting company should it require to later down the line, claimed one supplier, which could stifle the organisation’s capacity to innovate in long term.

“Any discounts designed by transforming the web hosting company, for instance, would be massively negated by the charges of rewriting the applications [hosted on top rated of it]. So are the NES crack clauses meaningful? I imagine not,” they extra.

In reaction to claims the deal is anti-innovation, the NES spokesperson reported the system does permit for other suppliers to develop performance on top rated of the underlying AWS infrastructure, which will foster innovation and present a way in for other events later down the line.

“The probable for innovation is much less about which cloud company is getting applied, and more about what can be crafted on top rated of the system. We appear ahead to checking out this with other suppliers in the long term,” the spokesperson extra.

Plotting out the route to procurement

AWS is recognised to have commenced get the job done on the undertaking in April 2020, but suppliers have queried why it took right up until 12 Might 2021 for Amazon to be publicly named as NES’s selected cloud company.

“It is normal exercise for there to be a delay concerning awarding a contract and publishing the specifics, although we get the job done out the specifics of how the contract and expert services will be structured,” the NES statement extra. “The increased time on this celebration was a aspect of the unparalleled tension that all NHS expert services have been underneath.”

The NES also favoured a “competitive procedure with negotiation” procurement mechanism for this contract, which has also been named into problem by suppliers presented that it is deemed to be an “onerous and complex” process of procuring expert services that can show off-putting to SMEs.

“It is a procedure that is ordinarily reserved for outsourcing-fashion preparations,” a further supplier extra.

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

According to the Scottish government’s Procurement Journey internet site, the competitive procedure with negotiation procurement mechanism is built so public sector organisations can clarify the submissions they have been given with the bidders after they have been given a “fully-fashioned first tender”.

“You should use this procedure if you are not able to determine how to meet your desires technically and/or you are not able to specify the legal or economic necessities of your contract,” the internet site extra, ahead of citing that it can be applied for “complex purchases” involving “major details and communication technological know-how tools”.

In its statement to Pc Weekly, the NES spokesperson reported the use of this procurement mechanism is commonplace throughout NHS Scotland.

“This is a frequent tactic throughout NHS Scotland, adhering to Scottish governing administration pointers, aimed at looking for the proper company at greatest worth for money,” the statement extra.

“This contract was awarded in April 2020 adhering to public contract pointers and looking for greatest worth for taxpayers’ money.”

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

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