Apprenticeship Levy, Case studies, DevOps

Elevating DevOps practices with the Government Digital Service

11 February 2020 by Isla Lightfoot

This Spring, Corndel will launch the UK’s very first levy-funded DevOps Engineering training programme. We are delighted to be delivering this programme in partnership with Softwire, a leading digital consultancy trusted by organisations including the BBC, News UK and many major high-street banks.

By combining Softwire’s commercial DevOps excellence with Corndel’s apprenticeship expertise, we have created a first-class training programme based on a deep and practical understanding of applying DevOps tools practices in complex organisations.

Learn more about Softwire and their brilliant work.

This short case study showcases Softwire’s work with the Government Digital Service, using many of the tools and technologies we teach in the Corndel DevOps Engineering Diploma.

The Challenge

The UK Government Digital Service (GDS) is leading the digital transformation of government. It runs the high-profile GOV.UK website: the portal for UK government services and information.

It also builds services such as GOV.UK Verify: a way of confirming a user’s identity using verified external systems. With multiple high-profile websites and a constant stream of new requirements, DevOps practices are key to allowing GDS to iterate rapidly, while maintaining high availability and continually improving quality.

The Solution

Softwire provided experienced consultants to work within GDS teams. Softwire’s people worked alongside their developers, while helping to improve DevOps practices.


The Verify platform is built using a microservice architecture, which provides a great deal of flexibility and allows efficient distribution of work between teams. Softwire led the push to containerise the core microservices, allowing developers to run the core platform locally with a single click. This made it substantially simpler for developers to run their integration tests locally, saving set-up time and reducing the length of each development iteration.


A/B testing was essential on GOV.UK to provide rapid feedback to designers and developers on candidate features. Softwire helped GDS to develop a flexible new framework for performing such tests at scale, tracking key metrics for large volumes of users. The tooling has been highly successful and Softwire have worked with GDS to enable it to be used across the whole GOV.UK website.


Softwire helped GDS to simplify the set-up and tear-down of their infrastructure, replacing complicated scripts and manual intervention steps with a simpler and more maintainable Terraform solution. This made it easier to create and update environments, and reduced the risk of issues caused by inconsistent environments.


Government departments publish huge volumes of information on GOV.UK. Softwire helped to develop functionality which allows departmental users to review their content, reducing the cycle time for adding and updating content. This increased engagement with departmental users and reduced the effort required by developers to help these users manage their content, allowing knowledge to be managed sustainably as information volumes grow.

The Result

Softwire helped GDS to streamline key parts of their process, allowing them to work more effectively and to engage with their stakeholders.

Softwire’s people brought fresh perspectives around DevOps and helped to introduce new tools and practices. Our innovative A/B testing framework has been used elsewhere on GOV.UK, enabling GDS to easily carry out large-scale testing of new features and improvements. The content audit tool is being beta tested by one department and is due to go into public beta, while GOV.UK Verify is in use and continues to be rolled out to support and transform more local and central public sector services.

More information about the Corndel DevOps Engineering Diploma.

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