Yesterday was a UCISA Executive Meeting, hosted here in Sheffield - made a nice change to wander over to it rather than get up at the crack of dawn to catch the early train to London. It was very pleasing that everyone, no matter where they came from, was able to connect to Eduroam, the roaming wireless network. This is of course how it should be, but many institutions either don't run it at all, or have it configured in such a way that connecting is virtually impossible. Congrats to all of our network guys for doing such a good job.
We had a long and lively discussion on the JISC strategy which is currently out for consultation. This is an important document as it sets out the funding priorities for JISC for the next 2/3 years. I thought it was a very well written document and sets out the current environment well. As well as the obvious areas of supporting learning and research, the document has more emphasis than previous strategies on business systems (in the broadest sense, including VLEs for example) . This is in the context of helping Universities manage their business more efficiently in the current financial climate. Engagement with suppliers is seen as important, particularly in terms of the systems they supply to us, and the need for them to be more simple, conform to standards and provide functionality which can be disaggregated. Although not mentioned specifically in the document, any discussion with suppliers in my view also needs to emphasise the need for them to keep up with modern technologies and provide clean and simple user interfaces.
The other main item on the agenda was another consultation which is taking place, this time on how our network is delivered Currently MANs (Metropolitian Area Networks) have responsibility in many areas for regional provision of the JANET network - explained here. However, JANET(UK) has decided to move away from this arrangement and deliver services itself. This has caused some consternation in the community, particularly in the MANs. There is concern that the regional oganisations provide a better service - YHMAN for example provides all of the Universities connected to it, including us, with a dual internet connection whereas JANET only specifies that it provides a single point of connection. There is also much disquiet about the perceived lack of consultation and the way the decision has been communicated. As an IT Director, I don't really care who provides my network, as long as I get a service which is as good as or better then the one I'm getting now, and it is the same price or cheaper than existing costs. However, I would like to be consulted and have some justification provided for the decision. I'm sure this will rumble on for some time!