Defence readies AU$500m centralised processing contract

The Australian Department of Defence is set to award a contract worth over AU$500 million at the end of this year to reduce the number of servers across the country from 280 to eight.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

IBM, HP, and Lockheed Martin are in the running for a Department of Defence contract that will be worth over AU$500 million for centralising 280 processing facilities across Australia into eight.

As part of the department's AU$1.9 billion IT reform, it is moving to consolidate its data-processing facilities from over 200 datacentres across Australia to fewer than 10 locally and three globally.

Department of Defence CIO Dr Peter Lawrence confirmed in a Budget Estimates hearing on Tuesday that the tender closed in January, with the three companies each vying for the lucrative contract.

"The next checkpoint is to select from the three tenderers down to two by the middle of this year, with the aim being to complete the rest of the evaluation process and get to a recommendation for a single tenderer by the end of this year and then take it through the various approval processes," he said.

The CIO said that the evaluation of the two finalists would likely be finalised by the end of this year.

"We are aiming to be through the evaluation process by December this year, and then be able to move into the next phase, which would be contracting, in the first part of next year," he said.

Lawrence said that the Department of Defence has determined the location of the eight facilities, but took on notice the question of where those locations were.

Through centralisation of data processing, Lawrence said that the Department of Defence will have better data security through only having to secure eight locations rather than 280, and scalability and infrastructure management would also become much simpler.

"Having all the processes in one place will centralise things. So it should make it easier in time to be able to actually manage both the applications and the infrastructure in a more centralised way, which will, over a period of time, make it easier to access common data," he said.

"Right now, when we want to upgrade an operating system on our servers, we have got to go to everywhere. We might have servers in every one of those 280 locations. It is a time-consuming and onerous task.

"When we get it down to eight, they will be able to automate it a lot more from one central place. From my perspective, that will make operating that infrastructure a lot easier and a lot faster."

The contract, when awarded, would represent the largest contract to be awarded by the Department of Defence since Telstra secured the AU$1.1 billlion terrestrial communications network contract in February.

The Department of Defence had previously expected to commence work on the project immediately; however, Lawrence indicated in the hearing that the project would now need to wait until after the September federal election, because it needed the approval of the parliamentary Public Works Committee. A submission for the committee is being prepared for November.

"We aim to take that to the Public Works Committee as soon as we can after the election process. So probably early next year, we will be looking for approval," he said.

Lawrence explained the delay by saying that the department is required to review sites and bases around the country, and determine what work needs to be done as part of the network overhaul before putting together a submission to the committee.

"We have poor cabling, and we have poor facilities on them. It is taking us a reasonable amount of time to do the audits. We have to go to visit the sites. We and Telstra visit them, audit the sites, work out what work has to be done, and compile the documentation," he said.

The election also caused a four- or five-month delay in the project, he said.

"We were not able to get that done prior to the election process, so we are targeting getting that done as quickly as we can after it."

Separate tenders to remediate the legacy buildings to ready them for the new telecommunications gear would also be put out in the coming months, Lawrence indicated.

Since taking over the CIO role in November last year, Lawrence told the committee that he is working to have decisions made a lot faster.

"I am really trying to push my team to think much more about how we go through those processes, and how to increase the cycle time, not only to go as fast as we can with the right level of due diligence, but also to try and get decisions in a more timely fashion than we might have done in the past," he said.

Lawrence said that the project management office is now starting to track the progress of projects within the department with a new online tool that can see where each project is at.

"Part of the tracking tools we have now got in place is much more visible tracking on an online tool, where we can see what is happening with projects and I can drill down into them, and, particularly where we are seeing projects that are red or parts of projects that are not healthy, then we can drill into those much more easily than we have been able to do in the past," he said.

"That will give us much more visibility of what the issues are."

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