by Rodney Gedda and Tim Lohman

Fixing Sydney Uni IT ‘train wreck’ takes cars off roads

Apr 06, 2011
Computers and PeripheralsDesktop PCsEducation Industry

If IT inefficiency was measured in carbon dioxide emissions, The University of Sydney’s transformation from a “train wreck” to a centrally managed, efficient fleet of client computers is like taking thousands of cars off the road, says IT director Geoffrey Brown.

Brown, director of faculty services for ICT at Sydney University, said before the creation of a central governance structure, IT was managed in a liberal fashion so that every faculty could manage its own information systems.

“IT was a bit of a train wreck,” Brown said. “I started at Sydney University five years ago and it had quite a chaotic environment.”

Sydney University has a fleet of about 20,000 clients which is roughly the same size as Qantas.

The IT department, under CIO Bruce Meikle, has adopted an aggressive virtualisation strategy.

In 2009, Computerworld interviewed Meikle about moving to a virtualised environment ahead of physical infrastructure.

“We now use virtual images and switch off after hours and during holiday periods,” Brown said.

“Changing the sleep mode to be more aggressive for 75 per cent of PCs instead of just 25 per cent would be like effectively taking thousands of cars off the road permanently.”

By using a combination Intel’s V-Pro technology and Microsoft System Center tools the university has been able to take the carbon dioxide emitted from the average car for every three PCs it actively puts into sleep mode.

“We were needing to address the way our computers were operating in labs —some of them were only open from eight in the morning to six at night but if we left them on all through the night we would be consuming power we didn’t have to,” Brown said.

“We have experienced a 40 per cent reduction in power consumption, plus our research shows that for every three computers we put into sleep mode equates to one car not being on the road. That’s pretty good.”

Brown said moving from “large box” servers to more efficient blades has also reduced power consumption.

Sydney University’s 20,000 PCs are spread across 600 buildings, including 100 labs.

Senior IT infrastructure analyst at IDC Australia, Trevor Clarke, said the University of Sydney experience and approach is a good example of the need to address an increasingly complex end-user environment.

“Regardless of the environmental benefits of implementing a more robust auto-sleep policy, it certainly would provide it with significant cost savings from a reduction in electricity usage,” Clarke said.

“Whilst there has been a focus on transforming the data centre amongst Australian enterprises in recent years – and IDC believes this will certainly continue – there are signs that the next big focal point will be the end-user environment.”

Clarke believes the trend to increase management in IT environment is largely driven by the consumerisation of IT at the device and application level and a new desire to harness the trend instead of battling to modify user behaviour.

“On the environmental claims made by the university, I would have to see the assumptions and methodology in more detail before I could conclude one way or another,” he said.

“However, organisations like Computers Off have been pushing for this kind of mindset for some time and it is really just common sense that you would save on electricity costs and therefore carbon emissions if you did use less power.”

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