Vodafone Ireland: Cloud contract to have silver lining for the State

Investment of €5 million in ICT infrastructure will help deliver more efficient public services


Vodafone Ireland has signed a major contract with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which will assist the Government in accelerating its move to implement cloud computing.

It is envisaged that the contract, which involves €5 million investment in initial infrastructure, will help deliver more efficient public services as well as enable a more mobile workforce.

The use of information and communications technology to deliver better public services was a key priority in the Programme for Government and this contract will supply a managed high bandwidth fixed data network to state departments and agencies in support of that.

The cloud lies at the heart of this initiative. Cloud computing could radically change the nature of ICT provision in the public service and significantly reduce costs, according to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin. Speaking about the contract, he said: “It is a key element of the strategic future of ICT in this sector. As the Minister with responsibility for the delivery of sustainable public expenditure and the necessary reforms in how we deliver public services, I welcome the announcement [of the contract].”

While cost reduction is important in the current climate the long term benefits of the move to a “cloud first” strategy with the goal of having all data resources and software services shared across the public sector will far outweigh these initial gains.

“This new high bandwidth network will enable the public sector to realise its vision of improved and more efficient services based on a cloud first approach,” says the Government’s recently appointed CIO, Bill McCluggage. “The availability of cloud-based capabilities has fundamentally changed the nature of ICT delivery and its provision across the public service. With this high powered network, we will be able to provide a new range of shared resources and software services that will, eventually, be accessible to every public sector employee from a desk or mobile device. It will help us standardise, consolidate and automate the delivery of ICT across the public sector and reduce spend. It is also underpinned by a solid business case that provides compelling value-for-money for the State and taxpayers.”

High bandwidth network
The contract will see Vodafone Ireland build a fibre-based high bandwidth network, which will run at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, to connect state departments and agencies nationwide. This will enable data centre consolidation, support the cloud strategy, and provide improved access to new shared services and applications. Vodafone plans to invest €5 million in this infrastructure over three years.

“We understood what the department wanted to achieve in terms of its cloud strategy and consolidating all data connectivity,” says Vodafone CEO Anne O’Leary. “Government departments and agencies currently operate on different systems and use different applications. By building this connected network, it will be easier for the CIO and his team to simplify ICT provision across the public sector to deliver services that create more efficient working practices across government.”

This is the latest significant contract win for Vodafone’s Enterprise Customer Solutions division which as established almost two years ago. Vodafone Ireland was awarded the contract following a competitive public procurement process. The company began offering enterprise managed data network solutions almost two years ago and recently established its Enterprise Customer Solutions division following a series of strategic acquisitions to extend its capability in fixed communications. The division offers complex integrated mobile, fixed and IP-based telecommunications solutions for enterprise from one provider.

“Securing the Government cloud contract confirms Vodafone Ireland’s ability to provide specialist high bandwidth data services nationwide,” says Enterprise Customer Solutions head Steve MacNicholas. “When this is combined with our existing mobile products and services, in addition to our fixed line services portfolio, it demonstrates Vodafone’s growing capability as a total telecoms operator.”

And governments aren’t the only ones which can benefit from cloud services, says McNicholas. “All organisations are striving to be more agile in their business operations and cloud services facilitate this by simplifying an organisation’s IT infrastructure. Cloud services allow an organisation to pool its IT resources over a secure and reliable physical IT infrastructure. A significant advantage of the cloud is that it delivers a hosting environment that doesn’t limit a software application to a specific set of resources, which is the challenge for most organisations. Now, as a result of introducing the cloud within an organisation, a computer application can scale dynamically and increase its share of resources as and when needed.”

He gives an example of how this new model benefits organisations. “Today’s IT service requirements demand a converged delivery model which means that the organisation’s network is centralised. This is in contrast to a more traditional model whereby the organisation’s IT services might be distributed across a number of locations. A simple example of this would be any organisation with a head office with multiple remote office locations.

“The traditional model would be to give every single office location its own physical IT infrastructure including servers, telephone PABXs and so on. Now, however, with the benefit of cloud services, that organisation only needs to build one infrastructure in a hosted environment and then connect all office locations to it. This creates an IT infrastructure that is easier to control, manage and maintain which ultimately increases productivity within IT teams and lowers cost.”