Federal bulk-buy deal with Amazon Web Services open to all levels of government and universities

By Stephen Easton

Thursday June 27, 2019

A deal between the Commonwealth government and the cloud computing giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) will simplify procurement of services for the whole public sector, including state and territory agencies, universities and publicly owned corporations, according to AWS.

All of these kinds of public sector entities will be able to “save costs from the day they sign up, due to the economies of scale achieved from the aggregated procurement” via the agreement, AWS announced in a statement.

However, the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) puts it a little differently. It says state and territory agencies and independent corporate entities owned by the Commonwealth, like the ABC, “may be able to use these arrangements on a case-by case basis” while it is now the only way to buy AWS products and services for non-corporate Commonwealth entities (the group that includes all of the Australian Public Service).

The new arrangement is the federal government’s latest “whole-of-government volume sourcing agreement” alongside previous deals with SAP, Microsoft, Concur and IBM, said Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert.

Such large-scale agreements with the IT industry behemoths are one strategy pursued by the DTA, now part of the government services portfolio. At the other end of the digital government spectrum, the DTA’s various ministers and chief executives have also regularly spoken of giving more opportunities in the public sector to smaller vendors.

The minister noted agencies’ whole-of-government bulk-buying arrangements make sense when agencies already have lots of separate deals with the large IT company in question.

“Government agencies regularly engage AWS services, each with separate contracts,” said Robert. “The new arrangement represents an opportunity to provide cost reductions through efficiencies of scale.

“Over a number of years, aggregated procurement has allowed us to leverage the bulk-buying power of the government to negotiate consistent and improved terms and conditions.”

Across the country, some AWS clients in the public sector include IP Australia, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Landgate (WA), Emergency Services Victoria, the Australian Museum, the CSIRO, La Trobe University, Monash University, and RMIT Online.

In terms of cloud computing, Robert noted, there is an opportunity for small and medium-sized vendors to get in on the action through the DTA’s Cloud Service Panel. Government bodies can also work with smaller, local technology vendors on the AWS platform through AWS’s partner network.

The statement from AWS lists some potential benefits for government-funded entities:

“The whole-of-government agreement provides agencies with a consistent approach to access and use all the AWS services in any of AWS’s 66 Availability Zones (AZs) spanning 21 Regions around the world, without having to negotiate separate contract terms.

“This empowers agencies to easily use the latest AWS services and features in a self-service, low-administration way. Combined with the PROTECTED certification awarded by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) in January 2019, this agreement helps government agencies to migrate highly sensitive workloads and applications to the AWS Asia Pacific (Sydney) Region.

“Since all agencies will have the same terms, the smallest and largest agencies alike will be able to access the same benefits, and leverage AWS’s industry-leading security capabilities and highly fault-tolerant infrastructure.

“… The agreement also includes AWS Enterprise Support to provide close guidance and best practices, AWS Professional Services for agencies that need to obtain more guidance on complex projects, and AWS Training to enable agencies’ staff to develop the latest cloud skills.”

Australian public-sector entities can now have “access to the breadth and depth of AWS services on a pay-as-you-use model under an agreed set of terms and conditions” far more quickly than through standard procurement processes, according to the company.

“This paves the way for greater innovation by enabling agencies to build and deploy digital services to serve Australians more effectively, transform legacy operations, and accelerate scientific breakthroughs,” said Peter Moore, the managing director of AWS’ public sector business in the Asia-Pacific.

“By eliminating barriers that have traditionally bogged down government technology procurement, the Whole-of-Government agreement enables agencies to invest more time and resources on their core missions, rather than on negotiating contracts.”

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