Cloud adoption by public sector organizations in the United Kingdom may take years to catch up to the private sector, said Andy Tait, VMware (VMW) U.K. Public Sector Strategy head, in an interview with the U.K.-based website Cloud Pro.

The virtualization giant has been stepping up its U.S. public sector efforts of late, last week naming Lynn Martin, formerly VMware’s Public Sector Services and Solutions vice president and a 29-year Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) veteran, to head its U.S. Public Sector group to drive cloud and virtualization technology adoption among local, state and federal government agencies.

VMware’s U.S. public sector sales have grown to $500 million in 2012 from $8 million in 2004, and the vendor two months ago opened a new facility in Reston, Va., to house its more than 200 employees focused on that market. So it's not too much to expect the vendor will look to other geographies to produce similar gains.

But the climb for public sector cloud adoption in the United Kingdom to meet that of the private sector may be a long one, held back, in part by long-term, incumbent IT contracts, according to Tait. Despite an increase in cloud adoption by public organizations, the segment still trails the private sector in its expected rate of cloud adoption by as much as four years, he said.

“It’s not the only reason, but the nature of these longer-term contracts the public sector has a tendency to sign don’t necessarily have the flexibility needed to really drive innovative IT styles,” Tait said to Cloud Pro. “I’m not blaming system integrators and government suppliers for that, because it takes two people to sign a contract, but the size of these contracts is potentially a barrier to cloud adoption.”

The good news, according to Tait, is decision-makers at U.K. public sector organizations now are as open to the cloud as their private sector counterparts.

“In terms of attitude, I’d say everyone is open to cloud now. ... CIOs in the public sector are as open to the idea as they are in the private sector, but they are more constrained,” he said.