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UK's University of Manchester has its head in all the clouds as it rains £50m on integrators

Hope is to ease procurement while saving cash

University of Manchester has dished out a contract worth up to £50m to a handful of integrators to provision cloud services from the big three providers and build a tool for "consolidated and managed billing".

In a framework agreement, the uni - based in the north west of England - said it aims to ease the procurement of AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform and (whisper it quietly) save money.

The contract award notice said the university currently uses the trio's cloud services and that the "costs to move these to another platform is high and so the desired business outcome is to continue, for now at least, with the current platform and put in place a procurement route for the services which allows for consolidated and managed billing" within procurement regulations.

The framework, the tender stated, can include cloud hosting, cloud compute services, cloud network services, cloud storage services, other cloud technologies, marketplaces for PaaS and SaaS services and cloud-related consulting services such as training, professional services and managed services as well as technical support.

Winning bidders for the main three lots were Tech Mahindra for AWS, ANS Group for Azure and Cloudreach Europe for Google.

The university also awarded lots for future cloud projects. These "are not yet defined and so the requirements for these are 'generic' at this stage", the tender notice revealed.

"The University is looking for a number of providers, or resellers in conjunction with a provider, which can provide the spectrum of cloud computing services, at prices which allow the University to get the best value for money for these future, potential, projects. The University is also keen to work with suppliers which can add value, not just in minimising costs, but also by providing other management and reporting services which could be used to ensure best VfM (value for money) for the University in the future."

Winners of the lot for future projects are HCL Technologies and UKCloud, which recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Cabinet Office and GDS for discounted cloud services to the public sector.

All successful bidders for the first four lots were also added to an additional contract lot for "future business and projects" and it will be from this Lot 5 that the supplier for consulting, software development, internet and support will be selected.

The University of Manchester has played no small part in the history of computing. As well as employing Alan Turing from 1948, its researchers developed the first electronic stored-program computer, the equivalent to computer RAM stored using a cathode ray tube.

More recently, a research group at the university explored the magnetic properties of molecules using the AWS Cloud to perform "tens of thousands of calculations with many variables and degrees of freedom", according to research group leader Nicholas Chilton. ®

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