In early 2020, when UKCloud published its report “The State of Cloud Adoption UK Public Sector,” CEO Simon Hansford wrote, “It is becoming increasingly apparent that we have a tremendous national asset in the invaluable data that powers our public services. Hence, there has never been a better opportunity for the UK to protect and nurture these capabilities which will underpin future innovations that will drive better public services for citizens and business, and better value for taxpayers.”
Now, following another year that saw many of the UK’s agencies transform their digital operations in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and in line with the country’s Cloud First policy (which requires central government agencies to first consider and evaluate cloud solutions), Hansford’s words are prescient. Cloud solutions and services are increasingly crucial for government operations.
We recently connected with Leighton James, CTO of UKCloud, to get his thoughts on data as an asset and learn what he believes is driving the demand for sovereign clouds. We also asked what it means for UKCloud to be one of 10 companies to achieve the VMware Cloud Verified Sovereign Cloud distinction.
“We operate a sovereign, multi-cloud platform that is engineered to meet the uncompromising security, connectivity, and regulatory requirements associated with critical systems used across the UK’s government, healthcare, and defense communities,” says James. “And we address or surpass those requirements as they relate to multiple cloud technology stacks and across private, public, and edge cloud deployments. Our sovereign service caters to public-sector entities, and partners that work with them, that require the ability to support multiple cloud environments and security tiers based on the sensitivity of the workloads involved.”
Addressing the unique challenges government entities
Headquartered in Farnborough, UKCloud’s government-grade data centers are staffed by security-cleared staff. Not surprisingly, the company’s cloud experts are adept at guiding customers at every point in their cloud journey – from the migration of legacy systems to the application of advanced artificial intelligence – all while addressing the unique, non-standard compliance certifications government entities require. Just as importantly, the company’s experts have amassed valuable experience in hundreds of transformations, addressing the unique challenges government entities and organizations in highly regulated industries face.
UKCloud serves numerous organizations, including the Home Office, the Cabinet Office, the Department of Work & Pensions, the Ministry of Justice, and the NHS Digital. The company is also adept at creating the secure and compliant connections between agencies and government networks.
Much of this work involves systems that utilize VMware technologies. VMware has been a core technology provider to UKCloud since the company’s inception.
“VMware provides an elastic technology that enables UKCloud to cater to our customers’ very diverse needs and the wide range of workloads that many of them need us to support,” adds James. “And by being VMware Cloud Verified we also provide them with the peace of mind of knowing that we satisfy VMware’s most demanding standards. The VMware Sovereign Cloud designation augments that distinction by demonstrating that we are also proven and adept at addressing the most extensive guidelines governing the sovereignty and security of data here in the UK.”
James believes that the demand for (and importance of) data sovereignty will only increase in the UK. He points to a number of developments, among them legislation like the U.S. Cloud Act, the invalidation of the EU-US Privacy Shield by the European Courts of Justice, Schrems II, and even Brexit.
Notably, UKCloud’s own research, “The State of Cloud Adoption UK Public Sector,” found that more than 85% of IT leaders agree that their organization is reluctant to move workloads to the cloud “due to risk and security concerns.” And James stresses that the world’s largest hyperscalers are based in the U.S. and China.
“The Centre for European Policy Studies estimates that 92% of the data in the western world is stored by U.S.-based providers,” he says. “While many of these public cloud vendors can provide assurances around data residency, they can’t be extended to data jurisdiction. That’s a key point for us. We have always believed in the importance of developing a resilient national cloud capability to nurture and protect the United Kingdom’s data, which is why we started UKCloud and are proud to be an example that may encourage similar national investments around the world.”
It’s an approach that is working for UKCloud. Today the company is the only Sovereign Cloud Provider recognized by the British government as a Strategic Cloud Provider.
“We are committed to doing what’s right for British public-sector entities and the British companies that support them,” says James. “And beyond delivering the sovereign cloud services they need, our sustainability efforts also enable us to provide a carbon offset certificate as standard to our customers. We like to think of it as delivering the right hybrid solution, the right way.”
Learn more about UKCloud and its partnership with VMware here.