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Cabinet Office considers National Resilience Extranet options

David Bicknell Published 24 January 2013

Current contract is due to expire in September this year with a PSN/G-Cloud-based solution being mooted as one replacement option

The Cabinet Office is examining its options for replacing the National Resilience Extranet, a key element of national civil protection and rescue services planning infrastructure, when an existing contract with BT and Ultra ends in September this year.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) recently commissioned a research project to inform the Cabinet Office's approach to the NRE.

The report, by Niteworks , examines what the NRE is, its purpose, when it was required, how it is utilised and by whom. It says the Next Generation National Resilience Extranet (NG-NRE) must have all aspects of the current NRE as a minimum baseline; allow information sharing up to and including IL3; and should be intuitive to the end user; and should allow for data sharing across geographical boundaries both locally and nationally and for inter agency sharing; and where possible should follow the Government ICT strategy.

The report identified four principal technical solutions for the NG-NRE:

Option 1: Continue with current NRE as delivered by the incumbent provider. The report describes this as a low-risk route that provides more time to specify and procure the NG-NRE.

Option 2: Augment the functionality of the current NRE. The report argues that this could use the latest version from the incumbent provider with added functionality and an improved graphical user interface. It suggests that this is a fairly low risk means to deliver an enhanced NRE, while preparing to specify and procure the NG-NRE. The refresh, it suggests, could also encompass a change to the billing regime.

Option 3: Procure a new industry-provided solution to deliver NG-NRE capability. The report suggests this could be delivered through open competition. This provides a rapid route to delivery of an NG-NRE, "which carries significant risk of cost, delay and shortcomings in performance."

Option 4: Choose a G-Cloud-based solution. This would be a new NG-NRE created from a new design, using the latest technology, following the Government ICT strategy, and moving on to the Public Services Network (PSN). This would see the NG-NRE community as the government innovators employing the latest concepts and technologies to deliver capability. The report admits that this "is a fairly high risk strategy at present due to compressed delivery times, maturity of the PSN, supplier's accreditation on the Cloudstore and the infancy of the overall concept. This small-scale, complex and innovative project would carry risk as an early adopter of this technical architecture solution."

Options 1 and 2, the report suggests, are "continuity options", while Options 3 and 4 are "change options".
The report suggests that all four candidate technical solutions meet the minimum NRE requirement and adds that there are advantages to all four. A decision between the four cannot be made on technical grounds alone, the report says, with issues of budget, timescales, functionality, procurement strategy and risk all needing to be taken into consideration.

It argues that there is a need for:

- A clear definition of user requirements: what the system must do, should do and could do;
- A clear model of governance across the NRE;
- A concept of operations and/or concept of use;
- A more detailed review of the feasibility of hosting NG-NRE on the PSN/G-Cloud.

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