The what, why, and how of government-sponsored national clouds

05 June 2013 | Dan Mannion, Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

​In May, we talked about the three approaches to national cloud strategy being used by central governments worldwide. These governments are building national clouds as part of an overall IT centralization strategy aimed at saving tax dollars and increasing responsiveness. Over the next three months I’ll choose one of the three approaches and explain what it is, why governments choose it, and how it’s implemented. 

First up: government-sponsored national cloud.

What it is

This approach, used by 60 percent of central governments, enables a government to specify the cloud services it wants and either choose an in-country national cloud service provider or let the private sector bid for the business.

Why choose it

I see governments selecting this approach for two important reasons:

DATA SENSITIVITY. National governments have real concerns about their sensitive data—concerns that lead them to sponsor in-country cloud service providers who are best equipped to meet their requirements.

  • Data privacy—To protect information from being seen by the wrong parties, the government sets its own privacy rules, and government-sponsored providers design their cloud offerings around these unique rules.
  • Data security—Similarly, each national government has its own security requirements, such as data center security, encryption levels required, and the nationality of those who support the national cloud. In-country providers can address these requirements.
  • Data sovereignty—Because data that crosses a country’s borders is subject to international laws and treaties, some central governments prefer building clouds that keep data inside their physical borders.  

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Some governments use the transition to the cloud as a way to grow their local IT industries, develop local IT skill sets, and support local businesses that are going to pay local taxes.

How to implement it

I’ve seen implementation take three forms:

PUBLIC TENDER. Through an RFP process, the government defines its desired services and chooses one bidder to deliver each service. This method is transparent—and shows citizens that the government’s IT procurement practices are fair. But, because it may require multiple service providers, it puts the long-term goal of a centralized national cloud at risk.

CONSORTIA DATA. Here a central government buys into two consortia, each comprised of a local Telco and a local system integrator that join forces to build the national cloud. Departments can choose among competing providers while maintaining control over their unique requirements. However, this approach requires an upfront investment, and there’s a risk of collusion, price fixing, and even monopoly if one provider drops out.

GOVERNMENT CHOICE. In this case, the government simply chooses who will develop the national cloud. Advantages are speed and control; disadvantages are lack of competition and choice. 

In all three cases, developing a government-sponsored national cloud is a large, strategic undertaking that requires the right partners. Look for candidates who have years of experience delivering cloud computing on a massive scale, and who understand the intricacies of this complex cloud approach. These are typically the biggest, most senior service providers in your country. Once you find them, keep screening by applying your due diligence to the IT vendors, making sure your partners work with vendors that run the largest global clouds on the planet.

Next month, we’ll talk about the government as service provider approach.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at

Dan Mannion
Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

About the Author

Dan Mannion | Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

Dan Mannion leads Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector cloud sales business, delivering the most innovative solutions to government, health, and education customers around the globe. Read more