Thursday, 5 December 2013

Cloud Advisory Board

Today I was at the JANET Cloud Advisory Board. This was established when the JANET Brokerage was set up with £1.5m of UMF money and has acted as a Steering Group for the brokerage activities. Now the UMF money is coming to an end, and we were meeting to look at how we go forward with JANET activities, especially in the context of changes to the JISC.

We looked back at some of what the brokerage had achieved:
Frameworks are in place for data centre to cloud and telephony services
New frameworks are about to be announced for archive to tape and file synch and share
Two commercial arrnagements are in place  - Google and Microsoft
Financial X rays have been carried out in 18 organsiations

In the future we agreed that as a sector we need to  be more confident and assertive with suppliers, with a more commercial attitude to providing services. We also need to be ahead of the game more - speed is essential and as the digital world is moving fast we have to keep up. We must become thought leaders, and the inertia for innovation has to be banished!

We agreed that we need to work together - collaboration with ourselves, with JISC and Janet, with our suppliers and other organisations is vital. 

So, we will continue as an Advisory Board but maybe with a slightly different membership, and will act as a "critical friend" to JISC technologies which consisits mainly of JANET and Cloud services, advising on product offerings and services. We will also input into the different stages of a product life cycle including requirements gathering, testing etc. I'm looking forward to working with the new JISC, especially the new Director of Innovation,  on these developments.

During the day we had quite a lot of opportunity for discussion around cloud services, and one of the things I'm interested in is why more Universities, including us, aren't moving more into the cloud. Storage seems to be a favourite for many people, including many commercial organisations. Yet we, and I suspect other HEIs are spending vast amounts of money on on-site data storage. So, what are the barriers, why aren't we doing it? I asked the question on twitter and was directed to this article by Andy Powell which suggests that Universities think of themselves as special cases. Other reasons given included leveraging the already heavy investment we've made in on-site provision, cost, complex inter-dependencies with other systems, bandwidth and latency. All good things that need to be taken into account, but I think we really do have to look carefully at what we provide internally and what could be provided elsewhere, in a public, private or hybrid cloud. Cost comparisons need to look at the total cost of provision, including space, power, staff, and not just hardware and software. of course, moving stuff into the cloud has to have real benefits, in either service provision or cost efficiencies to make it worthwhile.

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