back to article UK.gov's shift to AWS: It's squeaky-bum time for small cloud pushers

UK.gov is investing more and more taxpayer cash on Amazon Web Services, with spend through the G-Cloud digital marketplace growing eight fold year-on-year to £16m in 2017. The government has forked out £19m with AWS over the past five years – and this is the figure from the G-Cloud framework alone. The vast majority of this …

Anonymous Coward

Beware the ides of march

How will HMG deal with the "The CLOUD Act (S. 2383 and H.R. 4943)" that is going through both houses in the USA?

The CLOUD Act could let police outside the United States grab data stored in the United States, and wiretap phone calls passing through the United States, while ignoring U.S. privacy laws. Foreign police could request data on non-U.S. persons not living in the United States, sending those requests directly to U.S. companies. During this data collection, the targets of these foreign police inevitably will be communicating with Americans. If you happen to be communicating with one of these foreign targets, then foreign police can often share your communications with the U.S. government. Then the U.S. government can use these communications against you, without a warrant, and without notifying them.

Implicit in this is the granting of any US Agency the rights to our data as it is as far as the US Government is concerned held on US soil.

IMHO, the Government is sleepwalking into a major data nightmare. Giving all our data to Amazon is asking for it big time.

"We see that you recently made a claim for disability benefit. We think you might be interested in these Wheelchairs and Incontinence Pads..."

All to save a few squid... madness.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Beware the ides of march

The answer is some form of "sovereign cloud", where the Hyperscale-branded cloud is actually located, owned by and operated by a local company under franchise or license. This is exactly why UKCloud (who are a pretty good supplier, all things considered) are now reselling Azure Stack. There are similar arrangements in place with the German flavours of Azure.

AWS and Google are far less good at this. Partially because they don't take the threat seriously and partially because they don't want to provide an entirely hobbled and inconsistent experience under their brand. Azure Stack for example (as being sold by UKCloud) is a far, far inferior product compared to Azure proper in all respects.

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Re: Beware the ides of march

What is the Act's view on data stored in (for example) the EU2 region, i.e. London? Is that US soil, in their thinking, because it belongs to Amazon?

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Nail hit on head...

"Perhaps we should be less concerned with which firms the government is spending taxpayer money on, and instead ask what it is spending our money on – and what we are getting in return."

Absolutely this. We are supposedly the 5th largest economy in the world but have a government that pleads poverty at every turn. We either have the most utterly useless accountants and management, or it's not all joined up in terms of thinking. So just where is all of that money going? It's certainly not going on making anything better...

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Re: Nail hit on head...

Calm yourself citizen you don't need to worry about these things. Why not read the royal wedding stories in the Daily Mail, and Eastenders is on later. Have you bashed Russia today?

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No joined up thinking at all

Individual government departments each seeking to save a few bob off their own budget; whereas, maybe for a little more, they could 'buy British' - which creates jobs, etc, in the UK that DO pay tax, that DO build up UK expertise, that DOES make them better able to complete internationally, that DOES keep British data within our borders, ...

Overall a few different choices ends up benefiting Britain overall.

But politicians won't do that: each trying to bring their departmental budgets down and, anyway, the benefits of beefing up British business probably won't be noticeable until after the next election -- so they don't give a toss!

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Re: No joined up thinking at all

You don't benefit Britain by buying British. You benefit Britain by buying British for high value, high margin goods and services.

No point buying British coal mined by British miners using British pickaxes when you could be buying British coal mined by British miners using Swedish dynamite.

Or buy Chinese coal and have the British miners retrained to design ARM CPU cores.

The reason Britain has the economy it does is because we concentrate on the high margin. We don't have sweatshops producing low margin product at low wages. Buying British in that space is poor value for UK Ltd, both for the producer and consumer. Short term it's bad for the redundant peasant farmer / weaver / boot maker / rack installer but long term they'll be brewing craft beer, building Airbus avionics or writing CloudFormation scripts.

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Outsource the problem...

... outsource the blame when it goes titsup

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Anonymous Coward

"That increase has not gone unnoticed, prompting concerns by some that UK small businesses are being squeezed out in favour of an American firm with questionable tax practices. But how well-founded are these fears?"

The fears may be well founded, but if anyone is being squeezed out it is because their products aren't competitive enough. For all of AWS's failings, the range and quality of their products is actually quite difficult to beat.

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Thumb Down

And of course Facebook's offerings are 'excellent' value for a users money - if you ignore all of the downsides

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>For all of AWS's failings, the range and quality of their products is actually quite difficult to beat.

Correct. But the reason we have government is to do the things the market won't, such as combat monopolistic tendencies. Being able to use past profits to price newer, smaller competitors out of the market is precisely the thing government should be discouraging. Tech doesn't even have the ability to push a geographical advantage that retail can operate on. AWS was designed to "bring retail to [corporate] IT" but I don't think we want a Corporate Tech High-Street with only two shops.

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Anonymous Coward

"Correct. But the reason we have government is to do the things the market won't, such as combat monopolistic tendencies."

Name one case when governmental propping up of an uncompetitive lame duck company has ever lead to anything good?

As for monopolies, how's BT for fitting the description? They were totally kept from being a monopoly by the government, right?

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>The reason Britain has the economy it does is because we concentrate on the high margin. We don't have sweatshops producing low margin product at low wages. Buying British in that space is poor value for UK Ltd, both for the producer and consumer. Short term it's bad for the redundant peasant farmer / weaver / boot maker / rack installer but long term they'll be brewing craft beer, building Airbus avionics or writing CloudFormation scripts.

I'm always a bit concerned with this. I agree high-margin is good, but the American company AWS is making a stack load of cash doing "grunt work" so I see no reason why we should be unable to replicate that.

My main concern, however, is the commercial power of the large companies to squeeze out the smaller players and establish monopolies which remove skills from the market. This isn't a luddite fear - if there were many AWS api providers I'd have no problem with it, but this is a single foreign company with massive commercial power and we are killing our alternatives. How well will the UK government be able to regulate this monopoly tendency if a whole stack load of HMG's operations require continual AWS support in order to function?

New Thing 1: Previously, we bought software (e.g. Windows XP, server) but if MS needed regulating we didn't have the threat of "oops, all the systems have stopped working!" which applied on a daily basis. Ultimately government rests on the use of force but if your critical government infrastructure is dependent on day-by-day basis on a company under a foreign jurisdiction, how can the government be sovereign? You can build everything locally, but you need to be able to migrate to something else within its controllable lifespan.

New Thing 2: We now have massive integration. That means migrating to a new platform is massively more complex, expensive and with a longer time requirement than it was previously. That reduces competition. We need to ensure "value" is not just measured by "money out." We need a more strategic view than that.

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"I see no reason why we should be unable to replicate that"

I forget the numbers (I've quoted them here before) but AWS is investing of the order of $10bn/ year. That's a big number but if you don't spend something like it your competitor will get left behind.

It's a brave politician who says "we're closing 15 hospitals to fund a UK cloud company". We've tried it before with Concorde and, whilst an engineering marvel, that was a commercial disaster which generated zero sales.

Arguably it's something we should do, and if it's as successful as AWS then it might actually pay for a hospital out of profit. Feels a bit too socialist for the current government and too forward thinking for the opposition. Maybe someone should suggest it to M.Macron, although he probably can't afford it either.

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Why should the UK not be doing that..

Well its not a matter of the US doing something that the UK is not doing.

Its Amazon *doing it* not USGOV.

Why/where/how?

Well Amazon has been going a good few years. Its getting virtually free equity to throw at he wall and see if it sticks. Im not aware aware of a UK compnay that has that advantage.

Plus ... the US is about 5x time bigger than the UK. And the companies more technically adept.

Do I think it matters? Nah. Just take advantage of the cheap cloud stuff.

Cloud - whcih AFAIC is nothing mopre than a Unix box on somewhere elses hardware, for me, is not about maximising profit but a cost saving on having to host my own hw. As long as clouds are cheaper than hosting hw than I win.

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"He noted that the Home Office still hasn't moved to Office 365 four years after the strategy was laid out."

That's a good thing, surely?

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Shoeburyness

I think the article title is incorrect.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/squeaky_bum_time

"Squeaky bum time: Attributed to Sir Alex Ferguson, famed Scottish association football manager and former player referencing the sound made by moving around in a plastic seat while squirming under pressure" while anxiously watching a soccer game. For American readers: "bum" means the same as "fanny". For British readers: it very much doesn't.

"Squeezy bum time" sounds like some sort of harassment is being described. It also refers to one or more persons occupying seating that isn't wide enough for the number and sizes of the people involved.

"Shoeburyness" is defined in "The Meaning of Liff' as "The vague uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat that is still warm from somebody else's bottom".

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