Monday, 11 November 2013

GDS – this is getting embarrassing

GDS, the Government Digital Service.

Remember the pan-government identity assurance system that was promised for autumn 2012, then March 2013 and which still doesn't exist?

Remember the assisted digital project that keeps starting, stumbling and starting again?

Remember the four professors' frosty report on GDS's government digital strategy?

Remember the other frosty report, this one by the Electoral Commission?

Remember the fifth professor's warning about the need to use formal methods (para.13) to produce quality software systems?

Remember the CloudStore being unavailable for four days?

They've only been and gone and done it again:


"This site will be unavailable from 6pm (GMT) Friday 8 November due to required maintenance" – 75 hours later, it's still down and we get this post on the G-Cloud blog:

CloudStore update:

Sorry that the CloudStore is not available right now.
Current CloudStore status
On Friday, we were carrying out updates to the records and the search indexes, and noticed that this had affected some of the search queries which were not always returning all of the relevant services. It’s important that no-one is at a disadvantage and we've decided to take the site down until this is fixed to ensure everyone is being treated fairly.
Working on a fix
Right now we’re working on a fix to get things up and running again as soon as possible. We’re keen to ensure that this issue are resolved and to make the user experience better as we keep iterating and making improvements.
If you need help
If you have an urgent procurement, we can help. Please email enquiries@gcloud.cabinet-office.gov.uk and we’ll aim to respond to you as soon as possible.
GDS are supposed to be using open source software. You'd expect open source software to have been used at thousands of sites worldwide and to have conducted billions of searches. There shouldn't be any major bugs left in it. People make mistakes with search queries.  "select * from table1" when they mean "select * from table2". That kind of thing. It doesn't take 75 hours to fix.

The Guardian called GDS "an elite team of digital experts". Will the Cabinet agree with that description? Or the Americans? What are the Koreans going to make of it? Or the Estonians? Or Chris Chant?

GDS run the digital leaders network, a cadre of IT people who are supposed to mould Whitehall to the Cabinet Office's wishes. What kind of an example to Whitehall is this latest CloudStore outage?

As Philip Virgo was asking only the other day, Should G-Cloud and the GDS be taken seriously as contenders to run Universal Credit?. What temptation is there left for DWP to adopt GDS's agile methods?

Talking of which, agile principle #7: "Working software is the primary measure of progress".

Not to mention principle ##1 and 3 "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software" and "Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale".

Tomorrow is Tuesday. Tuesday is when GDS publish their weekly diary. The diary is usually fairly anodyne. But tomorrow? The first signs of a GDS re-launch?

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Update 12.11.13:
  • The Law Society Gazette announced yesterday that the Supreme Court has entered into a new contract in the hope of cutting its IT costs. Was the new service procured through G-Cloud? No.
  • CloudStore is back, says the post on the G-Cloud blog, but the search facility still isn't working so it's not entirely back.
  • It doesn't matter so much, sub specie aeternitatis, if the CloudStore's doors are shut for several days at a time. Contrarywise, if the ID hub proposed for GDS's Identity Assurance Programme goes down, the digital-by-default UK will seize up, Estonia-style – luckily, there is still no sign of GDS providing identity assurance to the nation.
  • Earlier, Digital By Default News magazine announced the winners of their Digital Leaders 50 awards, given to "leaders and organisations who demonstrate a pioneering and sustainable approach to digital transformation". GDS came top. The BBC came second and Francis Maude came third.
  • No GDS this week diary yet.
Update 15.11.13:
CloudStore is back. That's what the G_Cloud team told us three days ago. And again two days ago. But is it?

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