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GOV.UK PaaS – a way forward

GOV.UK PaaS has been supporting government departments for 7 years now, running 172 digital services across 60 different departments. Since then, it’s become a staple to the work of digital government teams. And for us, it has become a go-to platform to help government teams deploy and run their services.

We’re big fans of GOV.UK PaaS at Made Tech, and have been impressed with the good work the team has done to build a simple service allowing teams to avoid operating their own platform if they don’t need to.

So you might have been as surprised as us to hear this week’s announcement that GOV.UK PaaS is being decommissioned. This has naturally been a shock for all of us who have been using the service for many years and has left many wondering what comes next.

GOV.UK PaaS is popular for several reasons. But, put simply, it’s because it allows teams to quickly deploy their applications to an easy-to-use, fully-managed platform that needs minimal operational oversight and support. 

It provides a feature-rich ecosystem that meets the majority of user needs while managing to remain a simple platform to set up and deploy services to. This is no mean feat – especially when you consider those requirements! 

Being a government platform, it’s vital it’s a secure and accredited service. GOV.UK PaaS follows security best practice and is able to support handling data up to the “OFFICIAL” data classification, making it suitable for most use cases. It provides robust logging and monitoring capabilities, support for numerous coding languages, and has had an active development team keeping things up to date and adding new features all the time.

Most important for several departments is the fact that it provides a fully-managed service. This means departments without the in-house skillset or desire to provision and support their own infrastructure can easily use GOV.UK PaaS to get their services live. And they know there are experts at GDS handling their infrastructure and support needs. This is one of the key factors that contributed to the success of GOV.UK PaaS – so whatever replaces it will need to follow a similar model.

What’s next? We have options…

So that brings us onto the big question: what comes next? Obviously, this is not something we can answer alone and any potential replacement needs the input of the many teams who have been using GOV.UK PaaS and now need to figure out a way forward. 

We believe forming a community around this will allow us all to share our experience and ideas so whatever comes next works for as many services as possible, and taking the approach of working in the open will avoid any duplication of effort and enable a collaborative future to all of our hosting needs.

With 18 months until GOV.UK PaaS is turned off, we want to begin this discussion now and get as many teams as possible involved. We’ve already begun investigating what options there are out there to support our clients who will need to migrate from the platform so that we can bring our ideas and experience to the table.

Fortunately, we’ve already been working with clients to migrate out of GOV.UK PaaS as their needs and capabilities have changed. We’re now looking to accelerate our migration offerings to provide this to more clients who want to move their services into other cloud platforms such as AWS or Azure.

Our close partnership with AWS and Azure puts us in a good place to investigate options and bring their expertise and input into the wider community. Alongside this we’re beginning talks with GDS about their future hosting plans and needs.

We’re also building a prototype hosting platform here at Made Tech to replace GOV.UK PaaS with our own fully-managed service. This will build on the great work that the GOV.UK PaaS team has done over the years and provide the same level of support and ease of use for clients while offering an easy migration of services between the platforms.

We’re in a good position to do this due to our extensive experience with GOV.UK PaaS and other Cloud Foundry platforms, our deep understanding of our clients needs, and our track record to quickly turn around new services that support the needs of our clients.

While only in the early stages of this journey, we’re looking for early feedback and conducting user research to validate our assumptions and make sure we’re building something that meets the needs of our clients. We plan to begin onboarding our first round of clients within the next 6 months and keep the community updated with our findings and progress throughout.

To aid us on this journey, we need your help. If you’re currently using GOV.UK PaaS, we want to understand how the decommissioning decision has affected you and what would help you going forward. What are your fears? What threats and opportunities will this provide you? How does this impact your existing roadmaps?

We plan to build out the community of support made up of civil servants, suppliers, and cloud vendors to get a group discussion going. We’ll be continuing to blog about this and holding webinars and other focus groups going forward. We’ll have a prototype of our own hosting platform to trial in due course, too. If you want to provide your thoughts or join in with the community please get in touch here.

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