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PSN to Cloud Transformation
By Francis Bell, Cloud Gateway
The future is undeniably cloud, but grey skies will persist so long as legacy infrastructure lingers in our ecosystems. For Government, it’s the Public Services Network (PSN). In this blog we explore what the PSN is, the challenges it presents, and how Cloud Gateway can support a seamless transition from PSN to cloud.
The PSN is the Government’s high-performance network, which helps public sector organisations work together, reduce duplication and share resources. It was conceived in 2005 as part of a set of Transformational Government initiatives, under the title of the Public Sector Network. It was designed to be the ‘network of networks’, and over the years has been tightly woven into the fabric of Government.
Currently, the majority of Government agencies are consuming some kind of PSN service, in the form of email, hosting services and the like. A large number also rely on the PSN for cross-Government communications and systems. For example, DVLA to Police, or Home Office to MoJ.
Views vary as to the capabilities and functions of the PSN, and in some minds it’s perceived to be something of a dark art. Regardless, it now stands as the backbone of pan-Government connectivity.
Cloud First Policy
In May 2013, the Government introduced the ‘Cloud First’ policy, which formally prioritised the use of cloud technology by the public sector. Organisations were encouraged to investigate potential cloud solutions “before they consider any other option”, in the pursuit of improved efficiency, and significant cost savings. This stance sparked something of a revolution in cloud usage by the public sector, complemented by a marked increase in understanding and awareness of cloud alternatives.
In 2017, the Government recognised that significant technology advancements meant the PSN was no longer the most appropriate or cost effective option. Today, there is a burning desire to move workloads from PSN to cloud, to make use of these ‘better’ technologies, reduce costs, and ultimately support the digital first agenda.
However, desire does not equal direction. Since 2017, guidance from the Government Digital Service (GDS) has been lacking, with some entities none the wiser as to exactly how they can move away from the PSN.
To many, the internet is the answer. Indeed, to accompany the announcement of Government’s intended departure from the PSN, the GDS made the comment:
“For the vast majority of the work that the public sector does, the internet is ok.”
Is this correct? And if so, should we settle for just ‘ok’?
At the 2019 Public Sector ICT Summit, on the subject of cyber threat, MP for Leigh Jo Platt remarked:
“As we adapt and evolve to the digital-age, we rightly want to harness the full potential that new technology offers […] but also we expect them to function safely and without interruption [...] Developments like these has led the head of the National Cyber Security Centre to conclude that he remains ‘in little doubt that we will be tested to the full… as a nation, by a major incident at some point in the years ahead’. A Category 1 attack.”
“A Category 1 attack would not only impact national security, it would also cause severe economic and social consequences, or even loss of life.”
It should be said that Platt’s remarks are not directed at the internet specifically. However, in an age where the internet is touted as the answer to everything, we must consider the impact of our technological evolution. With PSN, we’re talking about our most sensitive Government communications.
‘Ok’, in many cases simply isn’t good enough.
For Government bodies undergoing a cloud transformation, the challenges are clear:
- The core framework and functionality of the PSN were all designed before the advent of cloud, and agencies are often unsure how their legacy applications operate.
- There isn’t an obvious secure bridge between the PSN and internet/cloud services.
- Some applications are better suited to ‘lift and shift’ than others, resulting in a staggered transformation, which complicates the process.
- Many cloud applications need to reach back to the PSN, crossing security boundaries, all the while providing a seamless service to its users.
The task of unpicking the threads is a slow, considered process, and the PSN will not disappear overnight as a result. Once we have accepted this, we can begin to take a more controlled approach to the cloud.
Cloud Gateway is an innovative UK-based startup founded in early 2017. Part of the 6point6 Group, it is a pioneer of Agile Networking and has developed an award-winning hybrid cloud connectivity Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution.
The platform was designed to address the ever increasing gaps forming between an organisation, and the trend towards ‘everything cloud’. In 2018, Cloud Gateway became accredited for PSN for multiple public and private cloud service providers. It is also listed on both G-Cloud and DOS frameworks with Crown Commercial Services. Crucially, it provides access to current and future cloud services whilst preserving essential connectivity to the PSN.
The platform encrypts network traffic, manages its movement through a central enforcement point, connecting businesses to any cloud service provider(s), including the PSN, seamlessly and without disruption or impact to users. The focus is on facilitating a pace of change not previously afforded to organisations, particularly when faced with problematic legacy infrastructure.
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About the Author: Francis Bell is a Delivery Lead for Cloud Gateway. He is responsible for managing a seamless transition for new clients into live service, acting as a focal point for our Tech and Service teams. Francis only recently joined the company having spent 8 years in the publishing industry. Since his arrival, Francis has quickly established himself as a valued member of the Senior Management Team, heading up a range of exciting Product Development and Partner Programme initiatives.