CITY leaders have their heads in the Cloud.
Sunderland City Council has signed a multimillion-pound deal with IT giant IBM, which is set to give businesses access to the latest technology at a fraction of the usual price.
The deal will see the creation of a new Cloud computer network.
The low cost, accessible and secure system will allow businesses to increase capacity and capabilities without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel or licensing new software.
It should let Wearsiders access council services and information in a quicker and easier way.
Tom Baker, head of the council’s IT division, said: “Historically, if you were a business and you wanted something like a new server, you had to buy your own, and that is very expensive.
“If you are forming a new business, it is very prohibitive.”
He compared using the new system to travelling by public transport: “Previously, everyone had to buy their own bus, whereas now, they will be able to buy a ticket for the bus.
“That drastically lowers the cost of computing.”
The Cloud will be one of the first of its kind in Europe. It draws on existing IBM Cloud technology in use in China and the U.S.
City council leader Coun Paul Watson said: “We have a good reputation in Sunderland for innovation in both the public and private sector.
“In the current climate, it’s vital local authorities like us use our own assets to not only improve services, but stimulate economic growth for the benefit of the whole city.
“The Sunderland Cloud is a cornerstone of our economic masterplan.
“The new Cloud infrastructure will lay the foundations of an even smarter Sunderland, one that ensures the city continues to be internationally recognised as a forward-thinking city and a prime location for inward investment.”
The Cloud announcement comes after last week’s news that Sunderland is to be the first city in the country to have almost 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage.
Coun Watson and city chief executive Dave Smith visited the new Software City centre, in Tavistock Place, to mark the announcement.
Due to open early next year, the centre will provide a home for up to 50 new hi-tech businesses and council bosses hope it will repeat the success of the e-volve building at Rainton Bridge.