Thursday, 4 March 2010

From Build to Buy

Lynne Tucker from King's College talked about Doing IT Differently, and in particular moving from Build to Buy.

A number of drivers for change - low IT staff numbers with a lack of skills in new technologies. Very competitive jobs market in London. Large amount of legacy technology, no central directories etc. The data centre is also very high risk - by the Thames, below the flood level. Kings also wanted some very ambitious plans delivered quickly. So, they decided to leverage the power of JANET to source and locate things off site. They went for a multi-sourced partnered approach, out-hosting infrastructure where it was appropriate and concentrating on adding value in-house.

They bought an E-communications suite (Microsoft active directory, Exchange, Office communicator, Sharepoint). Bought from SCC and completely out-hosted and out-managed.

Secondly they bought a thin-client web-accessible virtualised desktop and filestore using Sun Global desktop. This is also completely out-hosted and out-managed.

More recently they've bought a bespoke admissions portal from Sapient and developed in India. This is hosted at KCL.

One of the biggest things they had to deal with was the increase in the size of the network, the connections to JANET, and calculations of bandwidth.

All of this required Kings to develop new approaches to tendering, supplier selection and contract negotiation. There's also an onerous commitment to deliver on your side of the bargaining - if you don't deliver what you say you will for a supplier, there's a cost involved.

Managing SLAs and managing vendor relationships and contracts take a lot of effort! Contact with vendors has to be carefully monitored and managed - no more casual chats between your sys admins and the vendors.

New approaches were also required to the enterprise architecture, network and infrastructure configuration and monitoring. New skills sets were needed. They no longer have control over fixes, change management and escalation. Rigorous processes have been put in place, and they have a change advisory board meeting once a week.

Interestingly - total cost of ownership not much different between in-house vs out-sourced. Lot of capital investment was needed. But other benefits include risk reduction, much more resilient services, 24/7 support, well defined incident and change management processes. There's also added value from dealing with third parties - they bring new things to the table including technical know-how.

Biggest benefit - not having to worry about the infrastructure - much more time spent on using systems rather than running them.

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