The University of Queensland (UQ) will soon deploy centralised server virtualisation services for its faculties and institutes in a university-wide project aimed at cutting IT costs and streamlining application delivery to 40,000 students and 7000 staff.
The university has tendered for a supplier to create a university-wide resource to provide shared virtual servers. This service would be available to UQ’s seven faculties, five institutes, and the ITS department as a shared resource, a move away from its mostly decentralised model.
The services will be provided on a ‘chargeback’ basis with the university expecting the environment to be ‘self-funding’ within 18 months.
Ian Duncan, associate director, enterprise support, information technology services at The University of Queensland told CIO Australia, the university was open to running the centralised service in-house or handing over responsibility to a third-party cloud provider.
“It [will be] built in a way that we can create sustainable [infrastructure] where we are not continually going back and saying that we need [more funds] to expand this piece or that piece,” he said. “It needs to be run properly as a service business within the university.”
UQ’s ITS department currently supports about 400 virtual servers delivering corporate applications that run everything from timetabling to parking meters. A further 1600 virtual servers used by other operating units within UQ’s network and these support other applications including high memory research systems, said Duncan.
Duncan was quick to highlight that the project is not about the ITS department ‘dictating’ to other business units how they should deploy virtual servers.
“People can buy VMs off us now but our VM infrastructure has grown organically over the last five years and the storage layer is not quite right. There’s an opportunity for us to refresh, do it all over again and do it properly,” he said.
“What we are saying is we [ITS] are going to spend money anyway, ‘how about we do this as a university-wide project?'”
“People are in different stages of their refresh cycle too…..hopefully they put some of their refresh money into the central infrastructure rather than doing it themselves.”
“We want much more transparency on how much [IT services] really cost so that people can understand that going forward. It’s been a big problem for us trying to explain that service x costs this much money,” he said.
Cost savings will be realised through co-ordinated purchasing – building one properly engineered VM environment rather than 10 smaller VMs – while reducing the hidden cost of managing infrastructure, Duncan said.
Duncan said that virtual machines for testing and development are being handed off to cloud service provider Amazon, while ‘really high-performance’ machines will continue to be managed by individuals who need them.