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

Maria J. Danford

An NHS Scotland teaching physique has hit back again at accusations that a 10 years-very long cloud deal signed with Amazon Website Products and services (AWS) in excess of 12 months in the past is anti-innovation, anti-aggressive and puts the organisation at high-danger 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 discover was only made public in early Could 2021. Given that then the specifics of the deal have been the issue of a great deal critique within just the governing administration IT provider local community, Pc Weekly has learned.

Quite a few associates of the IT provider local community expressed their misgivings about the deal, on problem of anonymity, to Pc Weekly with a great deal of the criticism they shared focusing on the “extraordinary” duration of the contract.

As said in the primary tender, the contract is established to operate for 120 months and presents NES the selection to prolong it by a even further two or 5 a long time must it need to have to.

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

“We now have a monopoly that has locked in a public sector organisation for 10 a long time and locked out the competitors for 10 a long time, including the Uk tech industry and SMEs,” just one provider told Pc Weekly.  

The Uk government’s numerous cloud procurement frameworks limit the duration of contracts to a highest of 5 a long time on the basis that shorter contract terms make it much easier for public sector potential buyers to upgrade their technological know-how stacks as required, when fostering a aggressive ecosystem for suppliers – specially SMEs – to run in.

From this context, Rob Anderson, principal analyst for central governing administration at investigation organization GlobalData, reported he understands why the deal duration is increasing eyebrows.

“Ten a long time with a possible 5-year extension is ridiculously very long for a cloud contract due to the fact the [technological know-how] ecosystem is shifting so immediately,” he told Pc Weekly.

“When the Uk government’s G-Cloud procurement framework was established up in 2012, the highest contract time period was two a long time. And even although the tech has matured, the contract terms now are however now only 3 to 5 a long time on the Cloud Compute Framework the governing administration announced not long ago.”  

In a statement to Pc Weekly, an NES spokesperson performed down the contract’s duration. “It is not always for 10 a long time: there are split points through that period of time if demanded.”

According to resources who participated in the procurement system, the contract with AWS at first operates for 5 a long time, but there is an selection to prolong it by a even further 5 a long time with no needing to re-tender the deal.  

Even with these terms in area, the nature of what NES will be applying AWS for means it is liable to discover it challenging to migrate to a various web hosting service provider must it need to have to later down the line, claimed just one provider, which could stifle the organisation’s capability to innovate in long run.

“Any discounts made by shifting the web hosting service provider, for case in point, would be massively negated by the expenses of rewriting the programs [hosted on major of it]. So are the NES split clauses meaningful? I assume not,” they added.

In reaction to promises the deal is anti-innovation, the NES spokesperson reported the system does permit for other suppliers to create functionality on major of the fundamental AWS infrastructure, which will foster innovation and present a way in for other events later down the line.

“The likely for innovation is considerably less about which cloud service provider is remaining applied, and much more about what can be designed on major of the system. We seem ahead to discovering this with other suppliers in the long run,” the spokesperson added.

Plotting out the route to procurement

AWS is recognized to have commenced do the job on the undertaking in April 2020, but suppliers have queried why it took till 12 Could 2021 for Amazon to be publicly named as NES’s picked cloud service provider.

“It is standard observe for there to be a hold off amongst awarding a contract and publishing the specifics, when we do the job out the specifics of how the contract and products and services will be structured,” the NES statement added. “The elevated time on this situation was a feature of the unprecedented strain that all NHS products and services have been beneath.”

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

“It is a method that is typically reserved for outsourcing-fashion arrangements,” an additional provider added.

The contract award discover confirms that two unnamed suppliers were being also in the running for the contract together with AWS, but none of the bids the tender garnered were being submitted by SMEs.

According to the Scottish government’s Procurement Journey web site, the aggressive method with negotiation procurement mechanism is made so public sector organisations can explain the submissions they have been given with the bidders after they have been given a “fully-formed original tender”.

“You must use this method if you are unable to define how to meet up with your desires technically and/or you simply cannot specify the authorized or money demands of your contract,” the web site added, in advance of citing that it can be applied for “complex purchases” involving “major data and communication technological know-how tools”.

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

“This is a popular approach across NHS Scotland, pursuing Scottish governing administration tips, aimed at trying to get the suitable service provider at most effective worth for income,” the statement added.

“This contract was awarded in April 2020 pursuing public contract tips and trying to get most effective worth for taxpayers’ income.”

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

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