The BBC flashes £560m ICT deal at hungry tech suppliers

Auntie dishes out latest slice of £2bn Atos pie

The BBC has once again opened its wallet and is enticing suppliers to bid for a £560m ICT and hosting contract – part of its plans to replace its mega £2bn Atos contract.

Over the next eight years it expects to splash between £400m and £560m on the deal, via a "single contracting entity" for end user compute services, hosting platforms, application services, and a technology service desk.

It is the second deal so far issued via its "Aurora project", intended to overhaul its £2.3bn IT with Atos. That contract began in 2004 and will now end in 2017 following a hasty extension.

In January, Auntie handed a £100m 10-year contract to BT to replace its broadcast network under Aurora. That deal was originally put to market in April 2015 for up to £230m.

Like many public sector contracts, Aurora is being pitched to suppliers as a "tower model", with seven various IT components to be separated and managed and integrated in-house by the BBC.

Today’s tender is to be the last big award under the Aurora model, with the ICT and hosting supplier expected to provide a raft of tower components. The rest of the contract will comprise of the BBC working with existing providers and using in-house capabilities and companies from its framework of "ad hoc" IT service providers.

The extent to which this model can yield cost savings for bodies has been questioned. The Cabinet Office has described it as effectively "outsourcing in chunks" and not official government policy. Certainly the Ministry of Justice has had little success using this approach.

The tower model consists of end user compute, connectivity services, hosting platforms and services, business systems, production and broadcast services and distribution services.

A BBC spokesman said the corporation expects to make significant savings under the Aurora model. He said the corporation had already saved "tens-of-millions" by renegotiating its contract with Atos and extending it for another three years.

But when it comes to IT projects, the body has a less than illustrious history. In 2014, the Beeb was forced to can its £100m Digital Media Initiative intended to move the BBC away from using and storing video tape, after the five-year project appeared to get nowhere. ®

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