The Bank of England (BoE) is seeking to ‘unlock the potential of the cloud’ having appointed a London-based start-up company to help integrate the cloud across its operations.
The central bank has announced that it has selected the company, which is called Appvia, to help with the design, construction and ‘assurance’ of a ‘modern, fit-for-purpose cloud environment’.
Use of the cloud – remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a ‘local’ server – is increasingly common across the public sector worldwide, including central banks.
The appointment of Appvia, which describes itself as a ‘cloud-native delivery platform’, marks a significant step up in the Bank’s interest in cloud activity. The start-up will support development and project teams in testing and deploying code in cloud environments; work with security teams to integrate the cloud into operational and security processes; and implement information governance compliance to enable BoE staff to collaborate safely and securely.
The BoE’s head of digital platforms, Oliver Tweedie, said the aim of the appointment was to “help us realise the Bank’s cloud ambitions and unlock the potential of the cloud” by “building the future of cloud services across our organisation”.
Cloud computing on the rise
Central banks’ adoption of cloud computing has been growing steadily. A survey by London-based journal Central Banking last year found 42 per cent of respondents were using the cloud in at least some aspect of their work. Thirty-six per cent of the 58 central banks that took part said they were investigating possible future use of the cloud, while 22 per cent said they had no plans to use cloud services.
Global Government Fintech reported last month that the Financial Stability Board (FSB), which monitors and makes recommendations about the global financial system, had launched a consultation on regulatory and supervisory issues related to the outsourcing of different functions, including cloud infrastructure, across financial services more broadly. The Switzerland-headquartered FSB issued a discussion paper in which it highlights concern about the possibility of systemic risk arising from ‘concentration’ in the provision of some outsourced and third-party services to financial institutions. Its paper, ‘Regulatory and Supervisory Issues Relating to Outsourcing and Third-Party Relationships’, followed a report entitled ‘Third-Party Dependencies in Cloud Services’.
The earlier report, published a year ago, flagged the ‘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. In its new paper, the FSB is looking more broadly, albeit that cloud is an important part of the picture.
BoE set for ‘technological transformation’
Appvia has secured the contract after a procurement process that began in January and attracted the interest of 28 ‘large’ companies and 18 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according the updated tender document.
The tender information says that the BoE will ‘likely be targeting [Microsoft] Azure in the first instance though will consider other public cloud offerings. We 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’.
Appvia’s contract – which will run for two years – is a feather in the cap for the company, particularly given its relatively small size. The company was founded in 2018 and already works with the Home Office on various projects.
Jon Shanks, Appvia’s chief executive and co-founder, said the BoE would be taking a “step-change in its approach to the cloud”.
“As the public sector starts to harness the power of Kubernetes [an open-source system for automating the deployment and management of what are known as ‘containerised’ applications], creating a fit-for-purpose cloud environment and culture within institutions is a vital piece of the puzzle. We look forward to working with all stakeholders at the Bank of England to support its technological transformation,” Shanks said.
Separately, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is to launch a £750m pan-government framework to allow UK public sector bodies to procure public cloud capacity direct from vendors. According to a tender notice posted on 1 December, 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.