Tuesday, 20 September 2011

IT, Cloud and Efficiency

Workshop on IT, Cloud Computing and the Efficiency Agenda delivered by Eduserv, UCL and UCISA.

Typically unis spend about 5% of their income on IT (do they?). If save 20% of that, not huge savings. So, efficiency is more than just cost savings.
Cloud, nothing really new. But, some key recent drivers. Virtualisation means there's no longer a link between a piece of tin and a task. Other development is strength of connectivity. We're very lucky in sector to have JANET. Fantastic connectivity, a great enabler of cloud services. Also developments in SAAS eg outsourcing mail to Google or Microsoft are contributing to take up of cloud services.

Good guide to basics of cloud computing produced by UCISA available here

Important to understand costs of IT, not just in central IT but what's happening in departments. Often not well understand in Universities, lot of hidden costs, including estates, power etc.

UCL differentiated between commodity and strategic IT. No benefit in differentiating in commodity IT, email etc.
Is a value in differentiating between strategic areas eg VLE, research.
Some are borderline.
Take commodity IT, centralise, outsource where suitable, share across sector, look at industry best practice, benchmark
Strategic IT is then planned, insourced, invested in using efficiency gains from Commodity IT. Focus planning on this area.
Free up resouces from efficiencies in commodity IT to strategic IT. Be aggressive with efficiency targets.

Biggest spend is staff. Look at this first. UCL Started from scratch with organisational structure with focus on teaching and learning and research. and strong customer service. New dept dedicated to Teaching and Learning support and one dedicated to Research support. Commodity side including network, data centres, desktop, printing, service desk, is being delivered with less staff. Have consolidated, standardised, outsourced, shared. Eg printer consolidation has produced big savings, as has outsourcing student and staff email. Now looking at shared data centres. Use industry standards such as ITIL.

General picture, IT depts have been doing a lot of this for some time. Eg email outsourcing. Comes under "Better for less" category. Services are free, but often offer a better interface and more storage, so not just about cost savings. This frees up staff resource to concentrate on more strategic stuff. Some VLEs have moved into hosted environments, as it is a key service which needs to be available 24/7.
Infrastructure as a Service, eg amazon for research computing, is also being used in some HEIs. Shared data centres exist, and they can be hybrid.

As move more down this route, are challenges including skills in vendor management, integration with other in house services such as authentication, contract length, understanding costs.

Use of cloud can enhance Internationalisation agenda.

Centralised vs devolved. Has to be some stuff that is so obvious that it has to be centralised, so has to be top down, ie you will use the central email system, finance system etc and not develop your own. Also need to sell benefits, better service, less duplication, more efficient.

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