Bank of England moves to ‘unlock potential’ of cloud

By on 10/12/2020 | Updated on 10/12/2020
Bank of England, London. The central bank wants to develop a "modern, fit-for-purpose cloud environment." | Credit: Robert Bye/Unsplash

The Bank of England (BoE) appointed Appvia, a London-based cloud services start-up, to help it integrate cloud technology across its operations last week.

The BoE’s head of digital platforms, Oliver Tweedie, said the partnership would “help us realise the Bank’s cloud ambitions and unlock the potential of the cloud” and “build the future of cloud services across our organisation”.

The appointment marks a significant step up in the BoE’s interest in cloud technology. The bank said Appvia will support its teams to test and deploy code in cloud environments; integrate the cloud into operational and cybersecurity processes; and roll out information governance compliance to support secure collaboration.

Jon Shanks, Appvia’s chief executive and co-founder, said the BoE would be taking a “step-change in its approach to the cloud”. He added: “We look forward to working with all stakeholders at the BoE to support its technological transformation.”

Cloud computing on the rise

Central banks’ adoption of cloud computing has been growing steadily in recent years. Last year, 42% of respondents to a survey by the Central Banking journal said they used cloud in some part of their work, while 36% were exploring future uses. Indeed, of the 58 central banks that took part in the survey, just 22% said they had no plans to use the cloud.

Last month the Financial Stability Board (FSB), which monitors and makes recommendations about the global financial system, launched a consultation on the regulatory and supervisory issues related to outsourcing different functions. While this is a broad look, cloud will be an important part of the picture. It also highlighted concerns about the risk that could arise from “concentration” of provision, for example, if a number of institutions came to rely on a single or small number of providers for essential services.

This followed a previous FSB report, Third-Party Dependencies in Cloud Services, published in December last year. This flagged a “small number” of globally dominant players providing cloud services. Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are among the big companies that have large banks using their cloud infrastructure.

Procurement notes

Appvia secured the BoE contract after a procurement process that began in January this year. The tender information says that the BoE will “likely be targeting [Microsoft] Azure in the first instance though will consider other public cloud offerings”.

The document adds: “We [the BoE] are looking to the awarded supplier to recommend our initial presence on a single cloud provider basis and take us through to a longer term, multi-cloud set-up where we can take advantage of the best that each vendor has to offer.”

Separately, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is to launch a £750m (US$990m) pan-government framework to allow UK public sector bodies to procure cloud capacity direct from vendors. According to a tender notice, published last week, the main aim of the framework is “to put in place a route for UK public sector organisations to buy their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) requirements directly from the owners of public cloud platforms.” It is due to go live in spring 2021 and would complement G-Cloud, the government’s established cloud computing procurement initiative, according to the CCS.

About Ian Hall

Ian is editor of Global Government Fintech a sister publication to Global Government Forum. Ian also writes for media including City AM and #DisruptionBanking. He is former UK director for the pan-European media network Euractiv (2011-2018), editor of Public Affairs News (2007-2011) and news editor of PR Week (2000-2007). He was shortlisted for ‘Editor of the Year’ at the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Awards in 2010. He began his career in Bulgaria at English-language weekly the Sofia Echo. Ian has an MA in Urban and Regional Change in Europe and a BA in Economics, both from Durham University.

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