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5/20/2013
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British Cloud Firm Wins Background Check Security Contract

Skyscape Cloud Services will partner with Indian consulting group Tata to provide security for U.K.'s new online criminal background check system.

Skyscape Cloud Services, a British cloud SMB, has won a £1.5 million ($2.3 million) annual contract to provide security for the background check system British citizens use to reveal any criminal records to prospective employers.

Following a number of high-profile tragedies, applicants for posts, particularly those that involve working with young people, are now required to reveal any criminal histories. The Home Office (the U.K. equivalent to the Department of Justice) is phasing out older processes set up to do that in favor of a new online system called the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The DBS runs on the new unified public sector URL, GOV.UK.

The DBS's purpose is to disclose to prospective employers any run-ins or convictions that might bar applicants from certain positions. Records involving abuse of any kind, for example, might preclude an applicant from working with children.

[ U.K. government needs to do a better job of using the data it collects to improve public services. Read U.K. Has $10 Billion Of Public Data, Study Concludes. ]

Beginning in April 2014, the service will be run not by government, but by Indian outsourcer Tata Consulting Services. The partnership, announced last November, promises an estimated four million annual DBS applicants electronic applications and "improved online services to enhance [their] experience."

Skyscape, which will back the Tata version of the DBS, markets itself as offering 'assured' (secure) cloud to the high IL3 (Impact Level 3) level to government and other public sector users. Monetary loss of data that is deemed to be at IL3 level protection is defined as equaling millions of pounds -- or, by another metric, would "disadvantage a major U.K. company" in any international trade negotiations.

According to Skyscape, no user data ever leaves its U.K.-based data centers -- an important flag to fly in a country where security fears, especially among public servants, have been hobbling adoption of the cloud. "This is a significant step forward for the use of cloud in Britain, as this is one of the first public-facing, front office apps on GOV.UK that will use cloud," Skyscape CEO Phil Dawson told Information Week.

The contract with Skyscape was awarded via the G-Cloud Framework, the British government cloud. Dawson's team said Skyscape was chosen over "a major service integrator" as well as other G-Cloud offerings.

Beyond today's announcement, Skyscape claims HMRC (the British equivalent to the IRS) as a customer, along with Government Digital Services, the body that built and runs GOV.UK. The Hampshire-based firm says it is also working on "over 100 projects across central government, local authorities, police, healthcare and other publicly funded bodies."

Skyscape partners with firms like VMware, Cisco and EMC, adding its assured cloud connectivity to their solutions. Describing the company as "one of our key partners in delivering cloud services to the U.K. public sector," VMware's head of public services Cliff Keast said, "This significant win further validates the adoption of cloud by government organizations as they strive to reduce costs and deliver better service to the public."

The latest open source movement aims to be the platform of choice for hybrid clouds -- and the anti-VMware. Also in the new, all-digital OpenStack Steps Up issue of Network Computing: With all the noise around the "what" and "how" of software-defined networking, many people forget the "why." (Free registration required.)

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