Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Disasters, cables and music

It's been a busy couple of days. Monday was back to back meetings. A liaison meeting with colleagues in the Library where we talked about a new building we are helping to design, plans for a new student system, and some systems we are about to develop to improve our research infrastructure. We also had a meeting with colleagues in EFM to talk about another proposed new building, the problem with this one is that many of our optic fibre cables run under the site! Some complex discussions about how and where to move them to, and how we can minimise the risk of services being affected to buildings served by these fibres.

Yesterday I was in Oxford where I am a member of their IT committee to give an external perspective. Discussions included their disaster recovery plans - something we all struggle with. It's a balance of risk and how mic resilience etc to build in. It doesn't help when business impact assessments are very dependent on the time of year. You might think the HR system would have a fairly low impact if it went down, but not if it affected your REF submission for example, or the Finance system if a big research grant submission was due, or the student system at registration. The list goes on.

In the evening I traveled to London for the launch of JANET 6, our new network. To quote their press release, "Designed specifically for research and education, Janet6 is highly scalable up to 8.8 Terabits of capacity and uses state-of-the-art 100Gigabit Ethernet technology. Janet6 provides excellent bandwidth and a flexible infrastructure, enabling the UK’s research, higher-education, further-education and skills-development sectors to collaborate and compete on a global scale." Exciting stuff. And the project was delivered on time and in budget. You can't say that about a lot of public sector IT projects!

The launch was at the British Film Museum in County Hall, a very impressive venue, which had been made over for the evening

And when the big red button was pressed to symbolically turn on JANET6, the Internet lit up on our tables

We had a talk from Ewan Birney from the European Bioinformatics Institute about how important the network is from a research perspective, and a demonstration of the low latency of the network using two musician playing together, 400 miles apart. The violinist in the room with us, and the cellist in Scotland. Very impressive. Here's a two minute video recorded on my phone, pretty poor quality, and the first minute is them speaking, but you'll get the idea!

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