Firm makes the grade in Chicago

Chicago Public Schools

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Chicago Public Schools, the third largest school system in the country, recently extended a contract with SevenSpace Inc. to manage the district's wide-area network (WAN).

The contract with the Chantilly, Va.-based information technology outsourcing firm was extended to 2005 for nearly $10 million.

Peter Weber, SevenSpace's president, said the contract was extended early because his company had improved the WAN's performance rate to 99 percent. The previous provider reached an 89 percent performance rate, he said, but the district experienced long network outages and connectivity issues.

The school district — which serves more than 40,000 employees and about 500,000 students — has more than 640 locations and three data centers. The WAN consists of 1,200 routers, 1,100 switches, 94 Microsoft Corp. Windows NT and 2000 servers, and an EMC Corp. Symmetrix networked storage system.

Among its services, the company provides fault/error detection and resolution, performance reporting and analysis, audit support and on-site repair. Customers also are able to view the status of a reported problem through the company's portal.

Although network performance had improved considerably, cost savings was another factor in extending the contract, Weber said. The contract can enable the school system to budget predictable monthly operations and maintenance costs as well as avoid hiring IT staff.

That's important in this sluggish economy, as more and more public-sector agencies are pressured to lower costs by reining in their budgets, he said.

Weber characterized his company as a selective IT outsourcing company, meaning it can provide operations management for an organization's IT network or just a part of it.

In addition to the Chicago school system, SevenSpace manages state portals for Maryland, Delaware and Texas (shared with BearingPoint Inc.), and a Web-based scheduling program for the New Jersey Transit Authority. It also has a large private-sector clientele. The $20 million company projects to grow by at least 50 percent this year.

The company doesn't develop applications, and it takes advantage of an organization's existing technology to remotely monitor and maintain networks, Weber said. Therefore, Weber said his company — unlike larger companies — can agree to contracts ranging from $20,000 to $7 million.

While the state and local sector remains a large growth area, Weber said the company is actively seeking a greater federal sector share, recently signing its first federal agency, which he did not identify.

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