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HMRC reveals cloud and open source transformation

HM Revenue and Customs (opens in new tab) has revealed how it is using digital technology, the cloud and open source to transform its services.

On the HMRC Digital Blog (opens in new tab), infrastructure digital service manager Kalbir Sohi explains how HMRC is currently in the process of scaling up its cloud infrastructure in preparation for the delivery of new and redesigned digital services.

Such services sit on a "Tax Platform", the Department's internal Platform as a Service (PaaS) that has been in development for the past two years.

Sohi's team has been responsible for automating the creation of infrastructure during this time by defining it in code and decreasing the amount of time staff members spend on repetitive manual tasks such as provisioning and configuring services.

“We have focused on using open source tools such as Puppet, git and VCloud Tools to build and scale this infrastructure during the last two years,” said Sohi.

“We’ve progressed from being able to support thousands of users in the private beta phase of our new services to millions of users during the final week of Self Assessment Filing. We’ve also grown from four teams using our platform to around 25 (and growing!) and quickly built and developed the environments and pipelines to support that,” he claimed.

According to Sohi, the Tax Platform has been designed to make building, testing deploying and running microservice based web applications very easy.

He claims that it is HMRC’s ambition to change the way it builds and manages infrastructure across the whole of its IT estate, including the largest systems which are used for calculating how much tax people owe.

Cloud Broker ecosystem

To achieve its ambitions, the Department has developed what it calls a ‘Cloud Broker Ecosystem’ where large amounts of infrastructure onto the cloud in a way that is repeatable, efficient and automated.

HMRC is has adopted three main principles: use and contribute to open source tooling, be open to a radical redesign of current processes and build for its users in order to do this.

Sohi says that having access to fast, repeatable, efficient infrastructure will change the way teams within the Department work so they can focus on what users need.

“We are committed to both using open source products and contributing back to the community to improve them based on what we are doing,” the digital service manager claimed.

“This should help us to avoid being tied to one specific supplier or technology but will also allow us to contribute to some of the interesting and novel cloud tools that are emerging – hopefully making these tools more useable for organisations like HMRC,” he added.