Public Services Network
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|Public Services Network (PSN)|
|Type||data and voice|
|Operator||Government Digital Service (part of UK government Cabinet Office)|
The Public Services Network (PSN) is the UK government’s high-performance network, which helps public sector organisations work together, reduce duplication and share resources. It unified the provision of network infrastructure across the United Kingdom public sector into an interconnected "network of networks" to increase efficiency and reduce overall public expenditure.
The original concept of a network of networks strategy was based upon the recognition of Communities of Interest (COI) within the Criminal Justice Sector during work by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) between 2005 and 2007 to enable data sharing across business units.
In this context a COI was defined as groups of Government departments and external partners who in combination provided services within a specific area of operation and used the same data, with a similar risk profile, shared risk appetite and common governance framework. Historically each group member had implemented their own networks and standards of operation in isolation with little or no consideration as to how services and data may be shared and resulting in increased costs of operation.
The Network of Networks strategy proposed within OCJR recommended the creation of specific networks based upon these Communities of Interest which were joined together through data interchange gateways supporting common standards. Under this approach networks would be arranged by data type and business functions such as Criminal Justice, Health and Social Care, Defence and Intelligence or Public Finance rather than solely on established departmental boundaries. Within a COI, trust relationships and data interchange are readily supported, enabling data sharing without a need to cross network boundaries and providing benefits of scale without the challenges and compromises intrinsic to homogeneous cross sector networks. Data is made available without a need to transport it between organisations and control is retained by the data originator.
In early 2007 a group of UK Government department CTOs in conjunction with the Office for Government Commerce Buying Solutions (OGC BS) established the vision for a single commonly provided, procured and managed public sector voice and data network infrastructure to replace the multitude of separately procured and managed networks serving various segments of the UK public sector; Education, Health, Central Government, Local Government etc.
In 2008 an Industry Working Group was established to document the objectives and requirements more clearly. Their report set out the architectural and commercial principles as well as anticipated security, service management, governance and transition arrangements.
The PSN comprises a core network, the Government Conveyancing Network or GCN provided by GCN Service Providers or GCNSPs. The GCN interconnects multiple operator networks, termed Direct Network Service Providers or DNSPs. Subscriber organisations contract to a connection from a local participating DNSP, connect via that to GCN and hence onwards to other interconnected networks and services. The GCN network is entirely based on IPv4 and MPLS and the GCNSPs are not currently mandated to provide IPv6, though they should have a roadmap to implementing it if and when required.
In March 2012, BT, Cable & Wireless, Capita Business Services, Eircom, Fujitsu, Kcom, Level 3, Logicalis, MDNX, Thales, Updata and Virgin Media Business were successful bidders for the initial two year PSN Connectivity framework.
In June 2012, 29 companies were confirmed as suppliers of ICT services to the UK public sector under the Government’s PSN Services framework contract. Apart from most of the previous suppliers, additional companies also included 2e2, Airwave Solutions, Azzurri Communications, Cassidian, CSC Computer Sciences, Computacenter, Daisy Communications, Easynet Global Services, Everything Everywhere, Freedom Communications, Icom Holdings, NextiraOne, PageOne Communications, Phoenix IT Group, Siemens Communications, Specialist Computer Centres, Telefónica, telent Technology Services, Uniworld Communications and Vodafone.
The PSN is managed within the Cabinet Office where it is part of the Government Digital Service.
There were already notable initiatives in progress in county council areas, demonstrating public sector network integration in both the Hampshire HPSN2 network and in Kent's community network. Project Pathway was established as a pilot linking these two county-wide networks, with Virgin Media Business and Global Crossing the subscriber and GCN network elements.  Staffordshire County Council was the first council in England to establish a PSN that included the county's NHS Health partners. Other county councils have since followed the leads of these councils.
Centrally procured public sector networks are expected to migrate across to the PSN framework as they reach the end of their contract terms, either through an interim framework or directly. The Government Secure Intranet (GSi) contracts expired in September 2011, running on to 12 February 2012 and were replaced by the transitional Government Secure Intranet Convergence Framework (GCF). The Managed Telephony Service (MTS) contract expired on 31 December 2011 and was replaced by the Managed Telephony Convergence Framework (MTCF).
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Some have challenged the relevance of the PSN to the UK Government's digital and technology strategies.[who?] Those strategies emphasise the ongoing competition and diversity of suppliers in public sector markets, and using the public global internet as the primary infrastructure platform. The PSN effectively limits competition and constrains supplier choice through means of a commercial framework which is not as dynamic as the fiercely competitive commodity connectivity market. Furthermore, critics[who?] have raised the following challenges:
- The PSN will always be more expensive than open market prices for the equivalent service. This was publicly acknowledged by a previous Head of the PSN .
- The PSN creates a non-scalable bureaucracy, and a bottleneck for the entire PSN. It's governance and service management is not distributed, not decentralised, in the manner much of the internet is.
- The PSN core infrastructure is based on the same networks available to the commercial market, and therefore offers the same levels of technical risk, security and availability.
- The compliance regime is inflexible, often an overhead and contradicts the user-needs driven security design required by the Digital Service Standards. An increasing number of UK government and wider public sector digital services are provided and hosted entirely on the public internet, suitably secured.
- The PSN directly contradicts the UK Government's own network design principles, which encourage use of the public internet and self-securing services.
Situational awareness is often cited as a reason to maintain the PSN, but this is also challenged as the current methods for situational awareness of cybersecurity threats and events do not rely on all monitored services being on a single government managed network.
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