One of the committees I've been involved in but unable to blog much about till now, was a HEFCE Advisory Group on how £12.5m of the University Modernisation Fund could be used to promote cloud computing and shared services. The press release detailing where the funding will go was issued today, so I assume I'm now free to write about it!
The bulk of the funding, £10m, will go towards establishing a shared IT infrastructure for HEIs. A broker service will be established as part of JANET to help institutions procure shared virtual servers and data centre capacity. A cloud will be established using a virtual server infrastructure to offer data storage and management solutions, with an initial pilot based at Eduserv who will work in close collaboration with the Digital Curation Centre. In addition, there'll be a considerable investment in the development of research data management applications. This is good news, and many of the recommendations from the UKRDS project will be able to be progressed. Research data is a growing problem for many of us, in IT, in Libraries and to the researchers producing the data. As well as ever increasing storage requirements there is a real need to address the whole life cycle of data management including metadata, achiving, retention and deletion policies.
The remaining £2.5m is going to be used to develop shared services in administrative systems, initially those which support teaching and learning and research. A small expert team will be established to advise and help Universities with the procurement of systems, including advising on interoperability and setting up frameworks for large IT purchases. This is something I think the sector needs, and could provide a very valuable service. There'll also be a service to support the management of research, and electronic resources such as the electronic distribution of secure documents.
So, the funding has been agreed, and now the hard part starts - making it work, spending the money within the allotted time, and realising the benefits and savings. The THE has already announced that major savings are to be expected - lets hope they are right.