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

An NHS Scotland coaching overall body has hit back again at accusations that a ten years-lengthy cloud offer signed with Amazon World wide web Expert services (AWS) over twelve months in the past is anti-innovation, anti-competitive and places the organisation at high-danger of lock-in.

The £15m contract was awarded to AWS by NHS Education for Scotland (NES) in April 2020, but the contract award notice was only produced public in early May 2021. Considering the fact that then the details of the offer have been the topic of a lot critique within the govt IT provider group, Computer Weekly has uncovered.

A number of associates of the IT provider group expressed their misgivings about the offer, on problem of anonymity, to Computer Weekly with a lot of the criticism they shared focusing on the “extraordinary” size of the contract. As said in the original tender, the contract is established to operate for 120 months.

In accordance to the complainants Computer Weekly has spoken to, the contracts terms are “anti-competitive” and “completely out of step” with how public sector cloud contracts are anticipated to be performed.

“We now have a monopoly that has locked in a public sector organisation for 10 many years and locked out the opposition for 10 many years, together with the British isles tech market and SMEs,” a person provider informed Computer Weekly.  

The British isles government’s various cloud procurement frameworks restrict the size of contracts to a most of 5 many years on the foundation that shorter contract terms make it easier for public sector buyers to update their engineering stacks as wanted, whilst fostering a competitive surroundings for suppliers – notably SMEs – to run in.

From this context, Rob Anderson, principal analyst for central govt at investigation business GlobalData, mentioned he understands why the offer size is raising eyebrows.

“Ten many years is ridiculously lengthy for a cloud contract since the [engineering] surroundings is changing so speedily,” he informed Computer Weekly.

“When the British isles government’s G-Cloud procurement framework was established up in 2012, the most contract term was two many years. And even even though the tech has matured, the contract terms now are still now only 3 to 5 many years on the Cloud Compute Framework the govt declared lately.”  

In a statement to Computer Weekly, an NES spokesperson performed down the contract’s size. “It is not essentially for 10 many years: there are split points for the duration of that period of time if demanded.”

In accordance to resources who participated in the procurement course of action, the contract with AWS in the beginning runs for 5 many years, but there is an alternative to lengthen it by a even more 5 many years with no needing to re-tender the offer.  

Even with these terms in put, the mother nature of what NES will be utilizing AWS for signifies it is liable to come across it hard to migrate to a diverse web hosting supplier should it need to later down the line, claimed a person provider, which could stifle the organisation’s means to innovate in long run.

“Any cost savings produced by changing the web hosting supplier, for case in point, would be massively negated by the costs of rewriting the apps [hosted on top rated of it]. So are the NES split clauses significant? I think not,” they included.

In reaction to statements the offer is anti-innovation, the NES spokesperson mentioned the platform does permit for other suppliers to establish features on top rated of the fundamental AWS infrastructure, which will foster innovation and provide a way in for other functions later down the line.

“The possible for innovation is much less about which cloud supplier is being used, and more about what can be designed on top rated of the platform. We appear forward to exploring this with other suppliers in the long run,” the spokesperson included.

Plotting out the route to procurement

AWS is known to have commenced do the job on the challenge in April 2020, but suppliers have queried why it took until eventually twelve May 2021 for Amazon to be publicly named as NES’s decided on cloud supplier.

“It is usual practice for there to be a delay involving awarding a contract and publishing the details, whilst we do the job out the details of how the contract and companies will be structured,” the NES statement included. “The greater time on this occasion was a attribute of the unparalleled strain that all NHS companies have been underneath.”

The NES also favoured a “competitive treatment with negotiation” procurement system for this contract, which has also been referred to as into concern by suppliers given that it is regarded as to be an “onerous and complex” strategy of procuring companies that can show off-putting to SMEs.

“It is a treatment that is commonly reserved for outsourcing-design and style arrangements,” yet another provider included.

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

In accordance to the Scottish government’s Procurement Journey web-site, the competitive treatment with negotiation procurement system is built so public sector organisations can explain the submissions they have been given with the bidders once they have been given a “fully-fashioned preliminary tender”.

“You should use this treatment if you are not able to determine how to satisfy your desires technically and/or you are not able to specify the legal or monetary demands of your contract,” the web-site included, right before citing that it can be used for “complex purchases” involving “major information and communication engineering tools”.

In its statement to Computer Weekly, the NES spokesperson mentioned the use of this procurement system is commonplace throughout NHS Scotland.

“This is a frequent method throughout NHS Scotland, subsequent Scottish govt suggestions, aimed at trying to find the suitable supplier at very best value for money,” the statement included.

“This contract was awarded in April 2020 subsequent public contract suggestions and trying to find very best value for taxpayers’ money.”

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