The government is looking for a supplier to provide hosting services to central government through a joint venture called 'DatacentreCo'.
The Cabinet Office hopes that the service will eventually cover the majority of central government's datacentre hosting needs.
The agreement, which is valued at between £50 million and £700 million, will run for four years with options for departments to award contracts lasting up to seven years through the framework, according to a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).
'DatacentreCo' will eventually be majority-owned by the successful supplier, with government retaining a minority stake of 25 percent.
It will initially serve the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Home Office and the Highways Agency with a view to eventually providing hosting services to Whitehall departments and the wider UK public sector.
The private sector 'facilities partner' will need to supply data centre space and services from at least two separate locations, the notice added.
At first the infrastructure will house the least sensitive government information (marked 'Official') but it may eventually require accreditation to host 'Secret' and 'Top Secret' material.
The private sector partner will provide the initial funding for the joint venture and must have experience in working in a joint venture or partnership, according to the OJEU notice.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) has been working on setting up the 'Crown Hosting Service' since last year, with an outline business case approved by HM Treasury in December.
Supporting 'Cloud First'
The GDS hopes that the service will help to ease the process of moving Whitehall applications from legacy hosting contracts to public cloud over the next few years in accordance with the 'Cloud First' policy.
The government claimed that this venture will support the policy by providing hosting for applications 'not suitable or ready for cloud hosting or for which conversion to cloud readiness would be uneconomic', the notice added.
Separate IaaS framework due
Government chief technology officer Liam Maxwell said that the government also plans to set up an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) capability for applications "that are capable of virtualisation but require close proximity to legacy hardware."
Procurement for this smaller service will start in October, he said.
Maxwell added: "The Crown Hosting service is the first explicit legacy procurement in government. This approach will help technology leaders keep legacy systems running and provide the impetus to design and develop new services based on user needs.
"Because we are working as one government customer, we finally have the overview of what the legacy is and where it sits. We can also remove multiple layers of redundancy and over-specification across the government estate."
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