The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) and partner IBM could be on the road to repairing the state's data center consolidation after announcing Tuesday, Jan. 5, that they have reached agreement on a "new framework" for the $863 million contract.

Details of the agreement remain unclear, although IBM and the DIR said in a joint press statement that the agreement would address "acceleration of modernization, the establishment of a project pool, the streamlining of the procurement process, and the development of backup and recovery solutions." A finalized agreement is expected in February.

Government Technology's phone call to DIR seeking additional comment wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.

The Austin American-Statesman newspaper reported Wednesday that a possible change could be that IBM would no longer manage the state's remote servers. But such changes could alter the financial terms of the contract.

"To ensure the Data Center Consolidation Project's success, we are tailoring data center consolidation around the needs of state agencies rather than using a one-size-fits-all program," said Karen Robinson, the DIR's interim executive director, in a prepared statement. "By agreeing on the new framework, the state and IBM will be able to better focus on fixing processes, reducing costs, improving service delivery and increasing taxpayer savings."

In 2006, Texas awarded IBM an $863 million contract for the provision of IT services to 27 state agencies, and included consolidation of 31 state agency data centers into two state-of the-art data centers managed by IBM. The consolidation was initiated in 2005 by legislation that directed the state to cut its IT costs, and improve service and reliability.

But the consolidation has been rocky. Last fall, Gov. Rick Perry ordered all consolidation be halted because of IBM's "apparent failure" to back up data of 20 state agencies. Weeks after, IBM and the DIR jointly announced that they agreed upon a plan to improve data backup and recovery. The state's chief technology officer, Brian Rawson, later resigned to take a job as director of statewide data initiatives for the Texas Education Agency. Robinson was named his interim replacement.

An IBM spokesman called Tuesday's announcement of the new framework "an important step forward" in the consolidation effort.