Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Glitterati meet

I spent yesterday in Didcot at the Janet headquarters at the first meeting of the Janet Brokerage Advisory Group. On the way there I was amused to see a headline describing us as "glitterati" and "thought leaders". Not sure which one I prefer. Someone in the department was kind enough to point out to me that the definition of glitterati is "plural noun - wealthy or famous people who conspicuously or ostentatiously attend fashionable events". Very funny!

The brokerage has been established using funds from the University Modernisation Fund to assist Universities in adopting cloud technologies - I've been following progress with interest as I'm also on the HEFCE Steering Group overseeing this programme.

There are obviously many reasons for moving to Cloud (and we're not getting too hung up about our definition of cloud - keeping it fairly broad).  These include improving and modernising our services, improving efficiency, cost savings, moving staff effort away from providing commodity services and into areas which add value to the staff and student experience, becoming more agile, and keeping up with the pace of innovation.

The role of the Brokerage is to make is easier for Universities to adopt these technologies, to remove hurdles, promote good practice, assist with supplier negotiations and help with business cases, partuclary around costing of services. We discussed the latter at some length, especially TCO (total cost of ownership). How many of us know exactly how much our services cost in total. Do we ever include space, power, procurement, installation, commissioning. All of these are included when we look at the cost of outsourced services, so we need to be comparing like with like.

So far the Brokerage has established a framework with 8 suppliers for data centre and  cloud based services, but has a number of other priority areas including assisting with moving to cloud based collaboration tools (mainly Microsoft and Google), tiered storage, HPC in the cloud and TCO. We also had a discussion about they could help us with virtualised desktops, so that's something to look at.

The role of the Advisory Board is to provide independent governance, to give guidance and advice and to assist with information gathering from the sector. I'm looking forward to being part of it. When I presented to the department the other day on our key objectives for the coming year, I made it clear that we have to consider all forms of service delivery  in all decisions we take about our services, and that includes cloud. So, hopefully we'll one of the brokerage's customers at some point.

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