Scotland's Digital Future: Data Hosting and Data Centre Strategy for the Scottish Public Sector

The data hosting and data centre strategy sets the vision that Scotland’s public sector data hosting is cost-effective, carbon neutral and makes appropriate use of cloud technology, for the delivery of efficient and highly available ICT services.

Approach and current environment

The Strategy was developed using a process of consultation, research and analysis.

A cross-Government working group was formed that included ICT industry experts and representatives from public sector groups. The group discussed and advised on best practice for efficient and effective data hosting and storage including:

  • best use of the current data centre estate
  • any requirement for new facilities
  • reduction in energy, carbon and other environmental impacts
  • appropriate use of cloud based services
  • appropriate use of Business Process Outsourcing services
  • requirements for supporting management infrastructure, tools and processes
  • future proofing against developing technology and business requirements.

Headline points from consultation, research and analysis were:

  • most organisations have their own data centre to meet primary needs but 21% have found other solutions acceptable e.g. managed services, co-location etc
  • most data centre owners expect further investment in their own data centre within the next two years
  • other or additional options are being considered with a focus on public sector sharing and cloud solutions
  • many organisations do not have a clear view of current costs or energy efficiency making their comparison of solutions problematic
  • organisations require guidance on the use of cloud computing
  • any use of a shared public sector service requires an SLA with explicit allocation of liability for service failure

A report on the public sector approach to data hosting and data centres detailing the existing landscape is available on the Digital Public Services web page for data hosting and data centres.

Key findings relevant to changing behaviour are as follows:

  • public sector organisations are not making decisions against any common set of principles, considerations or evidence and generally lack evidence against which to take decisions on future provision. A small but significant number are still considering building their own data centre
  • some organisations have their own well designed and provisioned data centres which they intend to continue to use for the foreseeable future. However, many are not housed in appropriately secure and reliable facilities, and this represents a significant business risk for the public sector in their drive to provide a Digital First service
  • most organisations and sectors have varying levels of requirements for hosting and delivering services. They would be willing to adhere to a national approach if in doing so they can demonstrate that services can be delivered that are cheaper, secure and highly available
  • organisations will be more open to change if guidance and support is available to help them make informed decisions on the best approach for hosting their ICT infrastructure and services. In particular guidance on use of cloud hosting is required
  • there is a need to identify how costs can be measured in a consistent way while providing evidence that secure & reliable services can be delivered out with an organisation's own environment and with robust service level agreements
  • data centre providers whose core business is to deliver services and space operate at all security levels and with very tightly controlled service level agreements. They have effective strategies for reaching world class PUE (Power usage effectiveness, see Annex D) levels and have a clear understanding of energy consumption at all times

Our strategy addresses the following:

  • energy consumption accounts for around one third of the cost of running a data centre and there is little evidence that public sector organisations are controlling this effectively while commercially run facilities are managing this as a priority
  • given the extent of organisation specific arrangements there is considerable scope for cost saving through consolidation
  • organisations face many options in making arrangements for data hosting but lack both an overall vision and information base for doing so, and wish guidance for the Scottish public sector on use of cloud computing
  • some organisations felt that public sector shared service offerings were not attractive in terms of service offered or costs (although noting that full costing of their own facilities may not be available for detailed comparison)
  • the promotion of the co-location options available that meet required standards, and the services they can offer in the form of a catalogue, may address this. Cloud services offer scalability and the avoidance of capital expenditure but there is no public sector policy on this at present
  • a procurement framework for cloud computing and other related services including hosting is required
  • other governments are driving consolidation through provision of new public sector or external data hosting services
  • there is an appetite for driving consolidation at sectoral and/or geographic level

While these findings point to the need for change there is existing good practice as set out in Annexes F- I.

For example, there are organisations who have demonstrated savings through their recent approaches to data hosting which can be summarised as follows:

  • The Improvement Services ( IS) recently looked at the options for renewing a number of their aged services that were delivered through multiple suppliers with individual contracts which were complex to manage. The technology stack and hardware was hosted in co-location facility. The solution is now hosted in a private cloud for less than half the price that IS were previously paying
  • Highland Council estimates they will make savings of £1m through a reduction in power and £175,000 through standardising the technology they use
  • Scottish Prison Service will avoid costs of upgrading the existing environment and power consumption estimated at £20m by co-locating with Scottish Government backed up to South Lanarkshire Council
  • St Andrews University currently run their data centre at a PUE of 1.34 and have a target to run their data centre at less than 1.2 through further programmes of virtualisation and shared and managed services. They will save £1.4m over 10 years and a reduction of 6.8m Kg CO2 emissions


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