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Australian Taxation Office seeks to replace its managed network services



Australian Taxation Office seeks to replace its managed network services
Work divided into six separate modules.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a request for tender (RFT) to find one or multiple suppliers to help replace its current managed network services (MNS) contract.

The ATO said given that the current contract is due to expire on 30 June 2020, the agency is looking to re-approach the market with the aim of delivering reliable experiences to clients.

“In light of the ATO’s current and future needs, the MNS program looks to support improved flexibility and availability, increased use of the cloud, changes in usage and optimising costs over time,” the ATO explained in the RFT.

“The commercial arrangement will move from a single agreement to a multi-source agreement.”

The agency has divided the work into six modules, with this specific RFT focused on three of those modules: network manager (NM), unified communications (UC), and contract centre (ConC).

The remaining modules — data carriage and internet, fixed voice, and mobile services — are being procured through a relevant whole of-government panel via separate request for quotation, the ATO said.

Specifically, within the NM module, the successful supplier will be responsible for the end-to-end management, monitoring, operation, and improvement of all ATO networks. This includes a range of services, such as operational management of the providers of data carriage and internet connections, and the provision and management of LAN/WLAN services to ATO sites.

Read also: ATO called out for not tracking costs in digital transformation program  

Meanwhile the supplier for the UC services will operate and improve services including chat, telephony, video, web and audio conferencing, and video streaming.

“The UC service provider must provide, manage, and maintain the service which enables the ATO to communicate, collaborate, and exchange information from any defined device, regardless of location,” the ATO said.

As for the ConC service provider, the ATO said they would support the agency’s interactions with Australian citizens, other government agencies and internally, with specific services to include all aspects of the ATO contact centre solution portfolio, bulk SMS, call recording, web chat, virtual assistant, voice biometrics, and platform quality assurance.

According to the ATO, the replacement of the current managed network services is one of six parts of the agency’s “improving ATO IT systems” (IAIS) program that was established after a number of ATO stakeholders experienced system unreliability between December 2016 and February 2017.

“The goal of the IAIS program is to address key priorities in the ATO’s technology and business strategies,” the documents said.

“These outages brought into focus the critical reliance the taxation community places on ATO digital services, business service continuity, and demand from Government on new revenue streams.”

The other five sub-programs within the IAIS program include modernising the ATO’s telephony and contract centre platforms; end-user tool and technology; establishing a data centre and secure internet gateway; and modernising applications.

The initial contract period for the RFT has been set for three years to begin by 30 June 2020. There is the option for the ATO to extend the contract up to three times, each for up to two years, giving a total contract period of nine years.

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Aston Martin Valhalla may receive a Mercedes-AMG powertrain, and why we’re not surprised



British luxury automaker Aston Martin and German automotive giant Mercedes-Benz are no strangers to inking deals. In 2013, Mercedes claimed five-percent of Aston Martin in return for the former’s AMG V8 motors and infotainment system. Last year, Mercedes-Benz got a bigger 20-percent chunk of Aston Martin for the German carmaker’s EV technology.

In a recent meeting with investors regarding the brand’s 2020 financial results, Aston Martin CEO Tobias Moers said the carmaker is still reassessing the new Valhalla hypercar and will probably have a different drivetrain than the concept’s hybrid V6 first seen two years ago. Autocar reports the concept’s in-house developed hybridized V6 powertrain will give way to a hybrid Mercedes-AMG powertrain, instead.

The excellent news is Aston Martin will stick to Valhalla’s mid-2023 launch date. “We will have the Valhalla with us in the second half of 2023, and it’s going to be an amazing car with breathtaking technology,” said Moers in a report from Autocar. “With the transformational technology agreement with Mercedes-Benz, there are chances for us regarding combustion engines, but we still have an electrified drivetrain.”

First revealed in 2019 as the Aston Martin AM-RB 003 concept, Valhalla is the third modern Aston supercar to arrive after the bewildering Valkyrie and Valkyrie AMR Pro. Valhalla is most notably (and arguably) the best-looking Aston Martin of modern times, befitting of becoming the brand’s first production mid-engine hybrid hypercar.

Interested patrons have already placed orders for the new Valhalla since debuting two years ago. Aston Martin is not keen on divulging the actual figures, although the automaker said in 2019 that it got more inquiries from prospective buyers than the 500 build slots allocated to Valhalla. And unlike megabuck hypercars like Bugatti’s Chiron, the Valhalla’s $1.3-million base price is a bargain given its performance potential, styling, and exclusivity.

Despite the numerous probabilities, Aston Martin will debut a new version of the Valhalla AM-RB 003 concept in the next four months. In related news, Aston Martin is working hard on a plug-in hybrid version of its stunning DBX sport-luxury SUV, destined to arrive by 2024. You can also expect two new variants of the DBX coming later this year and in early 2022.

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Gunther Werks will build 25 modernized 993-based Porsche Speedsters



A tuning house based in California called Gunther Werks has launched onto the custom car scene an incredibly attractive run of 993-generation Porsche 911 cars that are heavily customized. The vehicle is a modern interpretation of an extremely rare 993-based Speedster, and Gunther Werks will build 25 of the cars. The entire run is likely to sell out.

The customized cars put a hard stylized cover over the back of the 911 where the rear seats would typically reside. The tuner redesigned the front bumper, added new rear lights, and created a deck lid with an integrated spoiler. Most of the custom body panels are built using carbon fiber.

When the top was chopped off the car, rigidity was maintained using bracing under the body. Gunther Werks also added roll hoops behind the seats to protect the occupants of the vehicle in the event of a rollover accident. The company will build the car without a windshield for those willing to risk being hit in the face by bugs at speed.

Copious amounts of carbon fiber are used all around the vehicle, including on the interior with the floors, seat shells, and much of the dashboard manufactured using carbon fiber. The pedals were moved for a more ergonomic driving position. Power comes from a naturally-aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six tuned for 435 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque.

The engine is paired up with a six-speed manual transmission for a traditional sports car feel. Those who decide to order the slick Speedster will get to work directly with the styling department to create their custom-designed car. One major mystery is pricing, with no mention of cost for the Speedster. However, the company previously designed a vehicle known as the 400R and that ride sold for $525,000 per unit. Presumably, the incredibly sexy Speedster will carry a similar price tag.

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This Coyogar Mercury Cougar by Ringbrothers is packing a Ford Coyote V8



Custom car builder and parts maker Ringbrothers has unveiled its newest 1969 Mercury Cougar restomod. Affectionately called the Coyogar, it’s a masterful interpretation of the highest-selling vehicle from Ford’s now-defunct Mercury brand. This first-gen Cougar restomod is a feast for the senses, but wait until you see what’s under the hood.

“We put our heart into each car we build, and this Cougar is no exception,” said Jim Ring, co-owner of Ringbrothers. “The finished product is mild and classy, yet any enthusiast instantly knows it’s not stock.”

Ringbrothers went for an engine swap, but they wanted to keep it within the family, so to speak. The next best thing is a naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter Ford Coyote V8 from a first-gen Ford F-150 Raptor truck. But instead of a standard manual stick, this Cougar has a slick 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

Yep, this ’69 Cougar is packing some new tech underneath, but the frame-off restoration stays true to the car’s original design. Ringbrothers gave its latest creation new floor pans and a new transmission tunnel. Suspending Coyogar on all fours is a custom DSE suspension kit. Meanwhile, the HRE Series C1 C103 three-piece forged alloy wheels are wrapped in sporty Michelin tires. It also gets upgraded anchors for better stopping power.

Finished in Augusta Green Metallic paint by BASF, this green hue is the same Highland Green factory paint option from 1968. “I imagine this is what Mercury designers would have come up with if they were building the Cougar today,” added Mike Ring.

Inside, the period-correct cabin with its wooden tiller and fancy wood appliques is slightly ruined by a single fault: That fat, unpleasant gear shifter that looks out of place in an otherwise brilliant restomod. We’re sure the judges at SEMA will see it as an eyesore, but the Coyote V8 makes up for this glaring oversight.

Other than that, this 1969 Mercury Cougar looks as fresh as the day it left the factory 53 years ago. “While we couldn’t bring the cart to the SEMA show, we hope it can be shown to the public soon,” concluded Mike Ring, co-owner of Ringbrothers. “We had never done a Cougar before, so this was a fun build.”

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