Sunderland Partners IBM For Cloudy Smart City

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IBM is working with Sunderland City Council on a cloud platform to encourage economic growth

Sunderland City Council has picked IBM to provide a city-wide cloud computing platform to stimulate economic growth, save money, and improve access to public services.

According to IBM, the cloud platform will be hosted in the Council’s own data centres, and has been designed to stimulate economic growth “by reducing the technological investment barriers experienced by start-ups and local companies wishing to expand operations.”

Meanwhile the cloud platform is also expected to provide other benefits. For example it will  reduce its own operational costs by £1.4m annually over the next five years by cutting the cost of hardware, software and maintenance. And the cloud will also provide a low cost, accessible and secure platform for use across Sunderland.

What this means in essence is that the cloud platform will not only be open to local businesses, but also local residents, so they can access public services much quicker.

Public cloud

But how exactly does this cloud platform hope to perform all these ambitious goals? It will assist local businesses because they will not have to invest in new infrastructure (servers, applications etc), and they won’t have to train new personnel or licence new software, says the council.

Meanwhile other businesses and public sector partners “are also expected to use the cloud for improved collaboration.”

IBM is designing, planning, and building the cloud platform. It will incorporate existing hardware and software so as to be as cost-effective as possible, but at the same time will help Sunderland City Council simplify its systems management for its 4,000 strong workforce. And there is a green element as well, as the Cloud platform will also apparently help the council reduce its carbon emissions.

“The cloud is a cornerstone of our economic nasterplan,” said councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council. “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.”

Regional Transformation

Whilst high profile initiatives such as London’s Tech City which is designed to attract new startups and entrepeurs, tends to hog the limelight, it seems that Sunderland, located in the North East of England, is not actually doing too badly as it transforms itself from a coal mining and ship building area to a modern, green industrial base.

Indeed, Sunderland claims that it has more technology start-ups than anywhere else in the UK (other than London).

“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,” said Paul Woolston, Chair of the North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership. “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.”

IBM of course has long been touting its Smart City approach, and has teamed up with many cities around the world to develop the concept, including the use of smart metres and smart grids.

In March for example Glasgow became the first UK city to receive funding from the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge initiative. This was designed to provide Glasgow with access to IBM experts, who would analyse and recommend ways the city can use technology to improve efficiency, support growth and deliver better services and levels of citizen engagement.

IBM is also building a Smarter Cities Technology Centre in Dubin, Ireland.

IBM Investment

“IBM’s vision for Smarter Cities resonated very well with our own plans for Sunderland,” said Dave Smith, chief executive of Sunderland City Council. “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.”

As part of the deal IBM will provide network, storage and server hardware.

Big Blue will also provide server virtualisation tech, integrated management and monitoring facilities, as well as  business continuity, backup and disaster recovery services.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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