BBC Drifting Toward Data Centers

A major data center consolidation will be the centerpiece of the BBC's $3.6B technology outsourcing deal

April 22, 2004

3 Min Read
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As the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) sorts through the bids for its $3.6 billion technology division, a new development emerges: The company's chief technology officer plans to move some 800 geographically scattered servers to data centers in the near future.

There is currently only a single data center within the operation, which is primarily responsible for supporting the BBC's Online and Interactive content. And that's not going to cut it, according to John Varney, the Beeb's CTO.

The more than 800 servers supporting the BBC's massive infrastructure come from a variety of vendors, including IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ). "Over time, we will move into the vendors' data centers when we have consolidated our IT, we will be able to roll out applications much more quickly across the network," says Varney.

As yet, there is no time frame in place for when the BBC's kit will be moved across to new data centers, though Varney says time is on his side. "This can't be done in a hurry – this is a ten-year contract, and we have plenty of time in the contract to ensure that the migration is dealt with sensibly."

The data center consolidation is a key part of the current sale of the BBC's Technology division, which was created in 2001 to provide technology services to the BBC and also provide IT support to third parties. The successful bidder, in addition to taking over the new division, will also be expected to overhaul the BBC's existing IT infrastructure.The quest for the deal promises to be a real bun-fight, as some of the IT industry's heavy hitters face off to win BBC Technology. The shortlist of bidders, released by the BBC, includes Accenture, Capita Group plc, Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) (NYSE: CSC), Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS), Fujitsu Ltd. (OTC: FJTSY; Tokyo: 6702), HP, IBM, and LogicaCMG (London/Amsterdam: LOG). This list will be whittled down to three next month, and the winning bidder will be announced in September.

Given the scale of the BBC's computing needs, HP and IBM could look to exploit their strengths in on-demand computing in the battle to win the deal. However, they will be coming up against stiff competition from EDS, which will be keen to boost its public-sector market share after losing its $5.4 billion, ten-year contract with the U.K.'s Inland Revenue late last year.

The BBC expects the efficiencies offered by the new contract to help deliver some major financial benefits – to the tune of nearly $55 million a year. Varney says, "We're predicting cost savings of $36 million to $54 million a year."

But whoever wins will need to convince the BBC that they won't shy away from new services. "The BBC will need an IT infrastructure to deliver content to a range of platforms, including mobile and broadband as well as TV and radio," adds Varney.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum0

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