IBM wins $9.6m to host eCensus in 2016

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IBM wins $9.6m to host eCensus in 2016

ABS ditches in-house plans in favour of outsourcing.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has opted not to build its own private cloud to host the 2016 eCensus, instead awarding a $9.6 million outsourcing contract to existing partner IBM.

Australia’s national statistics agency first offered Australians the option to avoid completing the Census via its traditional paper-based form with a web-based eCensus in 2006.

It partnered with IBM in a $9 million deal in 2005 to develop and support the web-based eCensus application - which is hosted on IBM’s AIX operating system and a WebSphere application server, out of the company's Baulkham Hills, Sydney data centre.

But the agency later virtualised its server infrastructure (with VMware’s vSphere) to create its own private cloud with the intention of hosting the 2016 eCensus.

Running the Census in-house would help address security perceptions arising from the data being handled from a third-party, the ABS said at the time. It said it also made sense to outsource the project to a third-party rather than deal with the one-off high traffic spike internally.

The agency became 95 percent virtualised after cutting 300 physical servers to 70, which hosted 1500 virtual machines.

But the Bureau of Statistics today confirmed it had decided to once again partner with IBM for hosting of the 2016 eCensus in order to ensure the expected high volumes would be properly managed.

The ABS expects the percentage of Australians completing the census online to double in 2016, forecasting a 65 percent take-up compared to 33 percent in 2011. For the first year of the eCensus, 10 percent of Australians submitted their form online.

“The ABS virtualisation project was successfully completed providing a very efficient platform for ongoing ABS operations, including supporting a number of components of the digital Census in 2016,” a spokesperson said.

“However, due to the peak volume of the online form during Census 2016 it was decided that contracting IBM would provide the best value for money and management of operational risk.”

Duncan Young, head of the 2016 Census within the ABS, said IBM had been contracted through a limited tender after proving it could offer the best value for money.

“This contract capitalises on the investment in the existing online Census system,” Young said in a statement to iTnews.

“Our existing solution has shown itself to be robust, and can be expanded to manage increased volumes. Using a known platform will reduce the risk of costly development and integration issues.”

The IBM contract will expire in October 2016.

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