The Cabinet Office is searching for a partner to host top secret information as part of a £700m data centre contract.
The four-year contract would see a private firm become the 75% shareholder in DataCentreCo, a firm set up by the Government to provide colocation services.
The Government would retain a 25% "+1" share in the company, and the data centre space would be used to store official, secret and top secret information, as defined under the new Government Security Classification Policy.
The tender process started today with the Official Notice of the European Union notice, and comes as the Government seeks to put more and more of its data and applications in the cloud.
The notice read: "Under HM Government's Cloud First policy the hosting of many existing and new applications will move to the public cloud over the next few years.
"DatacentreCo will support and compliment [sic] this policy by providing 'legacy' (non -public cloud) hosting for applications not suitable or not ready for cloud hosting or for which conversion to cloud readiness would be uneconomic."
So the private partner would have a duty to maintain support for on-premise applications too.
While the Cabinet Office is yet to reveal all of the Whitehall departments the data centre will serve, three 'founder customers' will be Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), the Home Office and the Highways Agency.
The notice said any contract bidder would need to be able to meet the DWP's low latency requirements of less than 0.5 milliseconds.
The provider will need to be able to host data at at least two locations.
CBR has approached the Cabinet Office to find out how long it expects the tender process to last, as well as what kind of data will be stored.