CSIRO's lock-in supply deal nears end

More than two years after entering an exclusive deal with hardware vendor Dell, research giant CSIRO is preparing to release a selective tender that aims to renegotiate supply arrangements with IT vendors and open the door to increased competition.

Sources familiar with CSIRO's procurement strategy say the organization has already shown signs of ending the agreement with Dell as it has purchased at least one AMD processor-based server - products which are not sold by the company.

CSIRO IT's executive manager of service delivery, Peter McKeon, denied that the contract has been ended prematurely, but did say it is under review for desktops, laptops, servers, and other infrastructure like software and storage.

"We're trying to align processing capability with our business requirements of cost-effectiveness, reliability, and support capability," McKeon said, arguing that escaping a single-supplier contract is not entirely the intention.

"Since CSIRO IT formed, it has only purchased from Dell but other divisions might have purchased other processor-based systems. The bulk of IT purchasing is done by CSIRO IT."

McKeon said since it is large and complex, there are many quasi-CSIRO organizations that might be purchasing servers - possibly AMD-based - outside of CSIRO IT.

McKeon conceded that CSIRO is "a little off" the original schedule of having the new selective tender ready by the turn of 2004, but said it should be made public by late March or early April.

"It's a case where we feel we've been operating under a certain contract for some time and feel we need to let other parties compete and get the best deal for the organization," he said. "It's not a comment on Dell, it's one of those things that is appropriate to review. We also want to see what other suppliers can bring to the table."

McKeon said CSIRO has had contact from at least six vendors vying for its business and doesn't see using multiple hardware suppliers as a cost-effective solution because support becomes difficult.

In an interview with Computerworld late last year, CSIRO CIO Roze Frost hinted at vendor rationalization as part of implementing a standard operating environment in 2005.

"At the moment we have so many desktop vendors and we will rationalize contracts with vendors," Frost said. "We don't have a standard and there is room to move on this front through a contract around desktop projects. It's an 18-month solution."

Among the key projects earmarked by Frost were desktop, server and data centre rationalization.

CSIRO has about 8000 desktops and an IT budget of $65 million.

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