Category Archives: Shared Services

UCISA Cloud Computing Review – 31/10/12 Nottingham #uccr

Usual random notes that may be of interest…see Programme for access to presentations.

Simon Marsden/Edinburgh: Introduction

What’s in/what is a cloud? Standard definition. Gartner view: high security, privacy or competitive advantage – otherwise outsourced or offsite. But myths abound:

  • Costs will be predictable – not to start with!
  • Costs will be lower – no!
  • More resilient – if you make it so
  • Disaster recovery – as above
  • Assured performance – or noisy neighbours?
  • Don’t know where data is? – probably do

User perspective: I get what I want; it just works.

CIO challenges: not too many – scale, exit strategy, data loss, how to charge, integration. & need to be seen as part of the solution, not an obstruction to be bypassed.

Things to look at: Coursera, learning platform for MOOCS; Office 365; Unidesk shared helpdesk; elastic cloud; trust; app store; reliability; green.

Agility: key issue. Running MOOCS with Coursera for over 100k students, quick deployment. Important to be there at the start, couldn’t have done it themselves.

Technology Enhanced Learning cloud – hybrid of supported through to non-supported, but provided within app store – flexible way of choosing tools.

Resilience – Site24x7, full scale monitoring.

So Cloud enables: swift innovation, reduced costs, greater choice for users. Not an option: can be difficult to understand, needs leadership.

Great start!

Richard Maccabee/ULCC: Delivering cloud services to the sector: ULCC’s experience of the range of options

Is it good use of public money for every HEI to have its own data centre? (or two…) – probably not, but is it public money anymore? All about services to paying customers, perhaps, perhaps sadly.

Approach: OS; shared services; vendor partnerships; evolutionary; hybrid: supplier, based in the community.

Service portfolio includes middleware & applications: ESB; Digitary (DARE!); Agresso Finance System, for about 10 institutions.

About 300 customers, across the sector & significant number of FE.

Issue: single data centre, in London – not good choice. So second site commissioned for 12/13, & looking at partner for Cloud IaaS. ULCC data centre will become point of presence for the Cloud. First bid submitted for provision of full IaaS for FE college.

MMU: very good student-focused VLE built around Moodle but including distributed services.

Drivers: mobile; BYOD/DIY; increased customer expectations; SOA ref Nexus ESB/DARE/Digitary, important for SaaS. Looking into Student Systems. <oh right, hosted then?>

Good that SOA – & to my mind hence EA – still seen as key component.

Ed Carter/Leeds: YHMAN – A Data Centre Without Walls!

Not Ed’s fault, but have a feeling I may have heard this before!

8 Universities collaborating in shared virtual data centres: enable economies of scale, balance asset utilisation, meet carbon reduction commitments, enable growth, enhance service standards, adhere to stringent security arrangements. Built on JANET/YHMAN network. Not that far away! & JANET6 increases potential reach/scalability. Storage for research, big data; HPC capability.

So essentially, promise of Cloud = ‘EaaS’: Everything as a Service. The Virtual University – the ‘University In A Box’?

Pleasantly surprised, if I’ve understood this right, by transition of technical/network staff into service support. Backed up by supplier support – HP.

It works!

Shan Rahulan/janet: Janet Brokerage

Set up to: promote cloud; reduce hurdles to adoption; create efficiencies. Like YHMAN, applying network approaches to data centres/services.

Usual drivers as previously referenced; also noted that adoption/governance is formative, & integrating clouds not straightforward. Customers are in the Cloud space, institutions/IT depts aren’t (entirely, yet).

Cost savings: not proven; current costs not understood, so savings hard to define. Hard to compare like with like.

Working with BUFDG, UCISA, JISC & UUK on modelling costs – which should be helpful!

Also looking at Amazon & Dropbox to establish a sector offer.

Olly Butters/Leicester: Building BRISSkit on the Eduserv Cloud

BRISSkit – Biomedical Research Infrastructure Software Service kit. Funded by UMF Cloud initiative to deliver in the Eduserv Cloud.

Good practical example of delivery of a service in the Cloud.

Cloud challenges – like ‘Hard to give up hardware – I can’t go and kick it’. Interesting thought – can you kick a cloud?

Working through governance issues/toolkits.

Mini Panel Session: Shan Rahulan; Ed Carter; Olly Butters: Matt Johnson/Eduserv

What are the barriers? People still want their servers on their site (‘Can you kick it?’ ref A Tribe Called Quest, perhaps). Again, internal services not fully costed/full costs not understood.

Simon Marsden: you need a burning platform – agree entirely. For Edinburgh, this is agility. Must be a real business/service driver because otherwise won’t want to meet the costs of change – cost saving not enough.


Stephen Booth/Coventry: A Managed Storage Service on a Hybrid Cloud

Can no longer do ‘just an IT project’ – I thought it was quite a while since you ever could? Business not IT initiative. Business drivers: cost reduction; flexibility; enhanced support; DR. Importance of supplier/partner relationship – joint customer/partner management of project & service delivery – partner will not let it fail: so have to make sure they have some skin in the game.

John Waters/University of West London: The North Face of Office 365

The University formerly known as TVU. 12 years on the HEFCE at-risk register. Rebranded as UWL April 2011. Bit of a mess of overlapping/inconsistent systems for student services.

Wanted to move to functional Cloud-based Student Portal & facilities, rich use, back end integration, SSO, IDM etc.

Approach: generated SMT buy-in through Microsoft-led activities at TVP. Project team. Focus groups. Piloting & proofs of concept. Got some help! (Fulcrum). 3 parallel work streams: infrastructure; IDM & data migration; portal design & back-end integration, Agile/Scrum, .net into O365 Sharepoint.

How does it work? Create accounts in Cloud (SIS = Capita Unit-e) along with authentication. FIM & ADFS. Systems Integration – .net to Sharepoint. Some use of Lync.

What’s in it? See presentation.

Content & administration issues ref content from Schools. Feedback from students – overlap with groups in Facebook. Systems integration: interestingly, no harder than doing on-site.

We did it (within 5 weeks) & students like it. Say no more. & next Phase 2 – mobile, Lync, staff email, SSO for VLE & SIS, distance learning, etc. Phase 3 – August 2013 – further data integration, social features, business portals.

Fulcrum Worldwide for site customisations & systems integration.

Useful day – & now, publish & be damned, & out of here to catch that slow train to Southport…

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#AUA12 AUA Conference Day 3 Manchester

Ewart Wooldridge/Leadership Foundation: The Psychological Contract

Should read ‘What Matters Now’ – Gary Hamel.

Aggregate of reciprocal expectations between University & all stakeholders.

New psychological contract – a paradigm shift? Yes, first paradigm shift of the day. Ref Matthew Taylor/RSA & citizenship. Student as customer? Co-creator? Citizen? Comprehensive to differentiated; collaborative to competitive; sector to system; trusted to challenged; certainty to uncertainty.

So what are key leadership issues?

  • Top: handling uncertainty & ambiguity. Yes – building the capacity for change!
  • Challenging inefficiency & reluctance to innovate
  • Being entrepreneurial
  • Making change happen
  • Collaborate AND compete
  • Engagement, creatively
  • Citizenship

Disruptive innovation; unbundling/disaggregation of the value chain = shared services, outsourcing; OER. So, DARE is an example of unbundling, break up of vertical integration. Example: BBC/ITV – have mostly outsourced their core product = making programmes.

10 key things.

  1. Leading the whole student experience. LFHE website: Developing the Whole Student/Dr Kathleen Quinlan. Creating organisational conditions; modelling a meaningful life; leadership of learning
  2. Public & societal engagement. Placing universities at the heart of social & economic advancement (UUK: Futures for HE/Analysing Trends)
  3. Distinctiveness. Components: Narrative Place Values Community Clusters. NPVCC. Dropped vision & mission – 50% of someone or other couldn’t identify their own. Mnemonic – Needs Positive Vice Chancellor Commitment – Oxford Brookes.
  4. Learning from Academic Leadership. Academics don’t see academic leaders as leaders. Academic leadership = oxymoron. I repeat, after all it was leadership that got us into this mess. Must be careful not to fall into traditional approaches to leadership. Listen; nurture; create; stimulate; engage. Quote from academic: ‘I really dislike this concept of leadership’.
  5. Professional vs Academic Leadership. Needs breaking down. No such thing as non-academic – no one should be referred to as what they’re not.
  6. Alignment. ‘For me, it’s more about a job well done & less about the cheese’. Cheese = strategy at end of the maze.
  7. Learning from other sectors. John Lewis; professional services; third sector. Not just private sector; note 58% of FDs now from private sector.
  8. Entrepreneurial leadership. Kanter: Measure themselves not by the standards of the past but by the vision of the future.
  9. New leadership qualities of challenge & support. Meaning, business focused, confidence, balancing support with strong challenge, clear narrative at ‘point of sail’, collaboration, energy.
  10. Discovering the magic in leadership. ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on…’ Yeah, but depends on interpretation – the next bit goes ‘& our little life is rounded with a sleep’.

See new connections; transform the obvious; cross boundaries; use humour; trust & respect.

University answer to man from mars: ‘But we don’t have a leader to take you to’. Might be a good thing…my closing quote: ‘Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters’.

#UCISA12 UCISA Management Conference Day 1 Part 2

University Showcase – The Digital Academic Records Exchange (DARE) Shared Service – John Townsend/LJMU, Jonathan Dempsey/Digitary

Couldn’t blog on this ‘cos I was presenting it – but here’s the poster…

 

 

 

 

Janet Cloud Conference Part 3 #JanetCC

 Phil Richards/Loughborough University: The Business Case for Virtualisation

Couldn’t afford to refurbish new data centre – need 20 year ROI when IT needs only predictable for 5 years (5years? More like 2…) – went for local mini-pods. Resilient local cloud architecture – similar to what we run at LJMU. 

Also – hybrid cloud, with Logicalis, & Google Apps. 

So – estimates £460m pa on servers & storage – could we save 50% of this?

Useful to look at what suppliers have done themselves eg HP: reduced data centres from 85 to 6, applications from 6000 to 3000, saving $1Bn pa revenue; industrial scale = key. According to Berkeley University study, can get decreases in factors of 5 to 7. 

But…2 to 3 x more expensive than Loughborough local costs? Because offering PaaS & SaaS, not IaaS, & not using single resilient network. Currently focused on these more profitable areas.

Janet = national grid for the hybrid cloud? Should UK HE take the lead?

5th supplier – Logicalis – signed up since this morning, which is great. Key role for Brokerage in working with suppliers & driving the price down.

Chris Sexton/Sheffield: Security of Academic Data in the Cloud

Story of move to Google, staff & students.

Why? Poor student email service. Multiple staff email systems. Old servers. Unsupported calendar product. Mobile strategy. Added value. Pace of innovation. Carbon footprint. Service (filestore). Note ref LJMU: possibly more difficult when already running a quality email & calendaring service. Also in context where no Microsoft infrastructure.

Decision May 2009. Students 2009. Staff 2011. Configured different clients for staff email.

Open & transparent, but not making a big deal out of it – very good approach to change management! (Really now believe that a big problem with change management is doing change management ie starting assumption is that there will be resistance, so make a big deal of it & overreact in advance).

Major business change for staff from use of Oracle Calendar – engaged local departmental secretaries in making the change. 

Disruptive technology – so need to know what you’re trying to do with it.

Security. Mythology – cloud issues the same as local issues, but make more of a big deal out of it. Just for light relief (?): Google’s Director of Security Eran Feigenbaum is also a magician

Patriot Act: can access data of any company that has presence in the US. Sheffield decided risk ref google or Microsoft was sufficiently low as to be manageable. Issue isn’t where data is, but how processed – is it under Safe Harbor. Consulted Information Commissioner’s office to confirm.

Concern: Google can change things. Need to be aware of this, because they will.

Latest: moving to Google Docs, introducing Google+ & Google Talk. Will be instead of, not as well as, so should be savings.

 

Tim Marshall/Janet: In Conclusion

If it’s really going to add value, means radical change. Not a cloud but a hurricane. & a much more joined-up, focused JISC will help. 

Janet Cloud Conference – the Janet Offering #JanetCC Part 2

 The Janet Offering – Shan Rahulan, Janet Brokerage

So, why is what Janet is doing different to anybody else? Lot of stuff already in/outside the sector. Building on existing work. So? 

First offerings:  framework agreements with Dell, Liberata, eduserv, HP. 

Working with suppliers to put readiness/maturity models etc together.

What are Janet doing about desktop virtualisation? – complex area, difficult, don’t want to jeopardise success by taking on something too hard too early – but the audience want it!

Back to – what is Janet brokerage doing that no one else is? Lot of different sources for advice etc on this stuff. Tim Marshall – can’t keep duplicating work in current financial situation. JISC/Janet working to provide more focus, less duplication.


Janet Cloud Conference #JanetCC

 One day conference run by janet brokerage at cctvenues in Smithfield London.

Paula Vickers/Middlesex University. Leading a Successful Move to the Cloud.

Interesting aside – all staff do hot-desking, including management. Hosted IBM data centre. Also offsite DR. 90% virtualised.  Oracle production DBs not virtualised. Using Virgin to connect to DC & DR. Complex service contract.

Why? 

  • Uncertain Estates strategy, poor/shifting accommodation/low priority – good point, resonates!
  • Don’t want staff patching & upgrading – but working on core business, focus on delivering benefits to staff & students informed by business knowledge & IT skills/understanding=being more sector strategic
  • TCO – refer back to first point, poor accommodation=high costs
  • Global 24×7 aspiration
  • Value added from supplier – more spend with supplier, more potential

ITIL practice at the boundary of the service is key. Need to retain technical architect, service management, business analysis etc.


The Cloud is maturing & unstoppable! For users it’s the service, not the location or the provider that’s important. Internal focus moves to architecting solution, integration & service management.


Need to help the technical people let go & move on to other things…really need to do ITIL…be honest about institutional costs. 


Bill Sturman/Oxford Brookes – Making the Cloud Pay For Itself


Consumer costs – connection; data; device.

Organisational cost – Janet ‘club membership’. Collective provision of the cloud – hardware & software, people, content.

Business benefits – investment not cost. Driven by customer expectations. 

  1. Innovation. OBU want to be sector leading. Mobile, BYOD, self-service.
  2. Anytime/anyplace & green agenda
  3. Operational excellence – adopt best practice.
  4. Economic efficiency?
  5. My addition – inferred above – give keeping the lights on to someone else

Hosting: email, other google stuff. Moodle hosted by ULCC – definitely saves money. Web content management. Virtual desktops – trialling google chromebooks. Virtual data centre – under review. Mobile apps – PC availability. Running competition with students to design next apps. Doesn’t save money – as well as, alternative route into services.


Hidden – cost of reputational damage. 


In summary: can’t definitively say will save money, key drivers are business benefits & the value of innovation.


JISC/LFHE Strategic ICT Toolkit Closedown Meeting

To the University of Nottingham for the final meeting for the project team – JISC/LFHE/JISCInfonet – & institutions who have participated in the SICT field test projects. Taxi ride from Nottingham station taking in a firebombed police station – not something you see everyday. Possibly a more than usually garbled commentary, but it was a very worthwhile initiative so I feel the need to get something down.

First session of the day was for each institution to do a Pecha Kucha presentation on their project. The following are a few interesting bits & pieces I picked up…

Bruce Levitan/Manchester Metropolitan University raised the interesting issue of the impenetrability of Enterprise Architecture for those from a non-technical background. Good point, although my experience suggests that as usually presented those from a technical background don’t necessarily find it any easier. Also see my closing comments. Anyroad, he suggested that some more engaging way of presenting EA was needed, & showed part of what looked like a very good Gartner EA animation. Which took me back to illustrating SOA/EA to LJMU management using the JISC SOA animation, & discussions in the EA Practice Group & beyond about how great it would be to have something for EA. Well, it still would.

Ian Hall/York had approached the project through the interesting mechanism of 1:1 interviews with senior managers using the toolkit. Comments: again, EA could be off putting, & not necessarily necessary/essential? Outcome – look into it. Equally, Shared services seen as a means to an end rather than necessarily a dimension on their own. Highlighted need to work on communications! & Information Governance. Started thought process. Will run again.

City of Glasgow College. Difficult to get off the ground but got conversations going. Separate toolkit for FE? EA awareness only with technical staff.

Middlesex. Academic view. Challenged dimensions ie not the ones they thought were relevant eg discarded shared services. Communications! Toolkit – jargon; limitations in spreadsheet; duplication, poor flow of questions. First real attempt at measuring ICT provision. Need to collect data over time – longitudinal.

& then things become rather more garbled than usual as it was my go & I suffered Powerpoint meltdown. My attempt at setting up a timed presentation for my Pecha Kucha (I can’t help thinking of gutta percha…) had resulted in an 0.06 second transition time between slides, which even my fast talking couldn’t keep up with. Attempts to fix it while continuing the presentation failed miserably, so I had to take time out – hence my recollection of other Pecha Kuchas is limited as I was labouring over a hot laptop, thanks for the loan, Lesley Huxley.

Clearly my new ‘zero or one’ strategy for slides is right for me – should never have gone for gutta percha.

So all I can say of the rest is: Coventry – Academic leaning, challenged the premises. Loughborough – scored Strategic! & devised their own simplified version. Bolton used it to support bringing in a Governance structure. & if I’ve missed you out completely whilst I was floundering around, apologies…

Next session: breakout to brainstorm around our projects. Lot of interesting stuff – particularly discussion around whether or not Shared Services should be a dimension, & the tension between generic/persistent dimensions – leadership, communications – & dimensions that may be time-limited eg if you did the exercise 5 years ago, or 5 years in the future, would EA & Shared Services appear? Emphasised the importance of focusing on the objective not the means ie an institution wants effective/efficient services; Shared Services may present a way of achieving these; an institution needs to understand the relationships between it’s people, processes & systems; EA is a way of articulating this. If you don’t go with Shared Services or EA it doesn’t mean you don’t need efficient/effective services or to understand relationships.

Also interesting discussion about how projects get prioritised/get senior managemnt backing, & where innovation fits into this. General rule:

Followed by a video conference session with Alex Hawker talking about the new Strategic Information Practice Group initiative, which will take on & progress the work of the EAPG and SICT, & the JISC call 11/11 for Transformation projects which will engage with these & other JISC-supported tools to deliver organisational change – very useful.

& lastly that I’m going to comment on, Lesley Huxley from the LFHE gave a rundown of how they might incorporate the SICT in their work, & led a very useful discussion around how it could be used in management development. One very straightforward idea: Senior management teams should be knowledgeable about the capability of ICT & what it can do for their business. They really should. Seriously. They should all be type 42s. They bang on all the time about the need to work smarter not harder, to be online, to engage with the digital natives – so plainly at the capability level they need to know about this stuff. So use the ICT Toolkit to find out if they do…

Also interesting discussion about how projects get prioritised/get senior managemnt backing, & where innovation fits into this. General rule: cheaper & better; can also go with better & the same; cheaper & the same; & sometimes even cheaper & worse, if a service is necessary but only needs to work rather than add value. Then raises the question: what about innovation? New things that by definition can’t be cheaper or better because they don’t exist. Suggested that innovation could be another SICT dimension.

Final comments:

– there was a lot of discussion around whether EA & Shared Services were really important strategic dimensions. I think the problem’s with the language. Using these terms can ghettoise them – they become magical technical things that can be put over there with the magical technical people – if you talk about services, which might be shared, or understanding relationships, which can be done with EA, you’re in a different ball game with a chance of winning.
– there still seems to be a lot of obfuscation around EA. EA is like Project Management – it’s just organised common sense. It’s not that complicated; it’s not as complicated as the experts make it seem; bring on the animation!
– Hell yes, JFDI