The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is developing a three-year data centre strategy targeting "technical efficiencies" from physical server and operating system consolidation.
The strategy, to run from 2012 to 2015, covers the department's primary centre in Hume and secondary facility at Tuggeranong, suburbs of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Recently appointed departmental chief information officer Peter Qui told iTnews that in the current financial year, he hoped to reduce the number of physical servers in use across both facilities.
Physical servers account for almost a fifth of the total number of servers — physical and virtual — in the department's IT environment.
In real terms, FaHCSIA runs "around 200 physical servers and 900 virtual servers". Virtualisation has seen the number of physical servers fall by two-thirds in "just a few years".
Qui wants to bring physical servers as a percentage of total servers in use down from the current 20 percent to below 15 percent this financial year.
He is also targeting reductions in the number of servers running "legacy operating systems", such as Windows Server 2003.
With the data centre strategy still officially under development, Qui is coy about discussing specific savings targets.
“The focus will be on achieving technical efficiencies such as reducing the number of physical servers, while maintaining or exceeding existing service levels,” he said.
He did, however, foreshadow that some works on the secondary data centre — used for development and disaster recovery — may involve sourcing from the Data Centre as a Service multi-use list.
The recent focus on server virtualisation could also give rise to opportunities to pursue cloud computing.
“As the [virtualisation] technology continues to develop, we may look at other opportunities, whether with whole-of-government clouds or industry clouds,” Qui said.
During the past financial year, FaHCSIA completed an IT refresh program that encompassed file storage, printing capabilities, email, general communication and remote access.
The department’s desktop software environment now supports Windows 7 and Office 2010 products.
“Right now our biggest priority is the construction of the IT system for the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which has a go live date of July 2013,” Qui said.
As head of FaHCSIA’s Information Management and Technology Group, Qui supervises some 300 staff across four branches. Each branch manager reports directly to him.
His group supports more than 3100 users within FaHCSIA, working in urban, regional and remote locations across the country, in capital and regional cities and remote communities.
It hosts a further 179 Federal, State and Territory Government staff in 26 separate locations nationwide.
Qui comes into the chief information officer role with 20 years' of public sector IT experience under his belt.
He counts former Department of Human Services CIO John Wadeson and Wadeson's successor, Gary Sterrenberg, among his IT mentors.
Qui spent most of his time in the former Department of Social Security, Centrelink and the current DHS.
He is a strong proponent for teamwork and collaboration in IT environments.
“Sometimes we focus so much on the technology, we forget only through the collaboration of individuals, with a common purpose, that good IT outcomes can be achieved," Qui said.
Read on for FaHCSIA's plans to share fund management and web accessibility tools it developed with other Commonwealth departments and agencies.