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UK's First Smarter City on a Cloud

Sunderland's City Cloud designed from the outset for both council and local businesses

Sunderland City Council and IBM announced Monday that they will provide a city-wide Cloud computing platform that will not only meet the Council's own needs, but that will stimulate economic growth for the benefit of the whole city by reducing the technological investment barriers experienced by start-ups and local companies wishing to expand operations.


Sunderland's Cloud is expected to reduce its own operational costs by £1.4m annually over the next five years, in the delivery of IT services through a reduction in hardware, software, maintenance and improved IT management. The Cloud will also provide a low cost, accessible and secure platform for use across Sunderland. It will allow residents to access services and information in a quicker and easier way, making the City Council more responsive. Businesses will benefit through the ability to increase capacity and capabilities without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel or licensing new software. Other companies, agencies and public sector partners are also expected to use the Cloud for improved collaboration.

IBM will provide the planning, design, provision and implementation of the Cloud for server and end-user computing. The Cloud has been designed to incorporate existing hardware and software in order to be as cost-effective as possible, whilst at the same time providing the council's requirements in terms of: facilitating an agile workforce, improving the experience of 4,000 end-users, simplifying systems management and reducing carbon emissions.

Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “'The Cloud is a cornerstone of our Economic Masterplan. The new Cloud infrastructure will lay the foundations of an even Smarter Sunderland, one that ensures the city is internationally recognised as a model for its operations and a prime location for inward investment.”

In the UK, Sunderland has more technology start-ups than anywhere other than London. The new Cloud deployment will also address Sunderland's goal to become a national hub for the low-carbon economy, which will require a computing model which supports an eco-system of companies and agencies to collaborate.

Paul Woolston, Chair of the North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "Sunderland is very much at the forefront of developing and growing the software industry in the North East and this is the latest example of partnership working which will create building blocks for economic growth. It raises our game to an international level and will assist the whole of the North East to attract investment and create opportunities for businesses across all sectors."

Dave Smith, Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “IBM's vision for Smarter Cities resonated very well with our own plans for Sunderland. With the experience of over 2,000 Smarter City engagements worldwide I'm not surprised that the solution it proposed was the most innovative and gave us the flexibility we need to take the regional economy forward onto a global stage.”

The City Council sees the cloud implementation as the foundation for deeper transformation, by making available sophisticated but affordable capabilities such as channel shift to online self-service, fraud detection and process optimisation. It will also be used to enable innovative delivery models to be adopted. For example it could allow a staff 'bring your own computer' policy which has been seen to increase flexibility and reduce costs.

Lynn Ferguson, IBM Industry Executive for Local Public Services commented: “The creative thinking behind the use of cloud technology to not only support the provision of council services but to also help facilitate economic growth in the city, demonstrates Sunderland City Council's vision and determination to drive innovation across the city.”

As part of the contract IBM will provide network, storage and server hardware. IBM will also provide server virtualisation technology and integrated management and monitoring facilities. To support operations IBM will provide business continuity, backup and disaster recovery services. End-users will be provided with a standardised desktop model; they together with council ICT staff will receive training to underpin the long-term success of the project. Sunderland's Cloud will be hosted in Sunderland's own data centers.

The contract was signed in September 2011.

More Stories By Liz McMillan

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