Geoscience Australia considers cloud to simplify ICT

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Geoscience Australia considers cloud to simplify ICT

Government review backs further support for agency.

Geoscience Australia (GA) is closely monitoring cloud computing to fulfil its growing processing demands.

The agency uses some 3,000 applications to manage more than two petabytes of geospatial data on behalf of other public and private sector organisations.

The organisation uses a mixture of commercial off-the-shelf and custom software on various platforms, as well as Linux, Unix and Windows software and servers that each required their own patching, upgrades and technical support.

In a 2010-11 Strategic Review report released last week (pdf), the Department of Finance said GA required a comparatively diverse ICT environment to support business diversity and innovation.

“Considerable effort is required to met the agency’s ICT needs whilst ensuring compliance with whole-of-government requirements,” Finance reported.

In 2008-09, GA spent $19.64 million on ICT-related operational expenses, $5.70 million on capital expenses, and $0.74 million on depreciation.

Finance noted that GA planned to consolidate infrastructure and applications, including examining all software applications this year to rationalise down to the minimum feasible level of diversity.

GA would also closely monitor cloud computing for processing and modelling information, for which it currently used internal server clusters and National Computational Infrastructure supercomputing facilities.

Since many of GA’s operations were “centred on the acquisition, ingest, interpretation and dissemination of data”, Finance expected its “considerable” storage requirements to continue to increase.

Data was stored on a two-petabyte IBM nearline storage system and 300 terabytes of tiered storage from Hitachi Data Systems, designed to scale up to at least 50 petabytes if required.

Finance recommended the establishment a single, whole-of-government geospatial policy centre to reduce data duplication and direct the creation, procurement and management of data.

Although GA had a five-person Office of Spatial Data Management, Finance found that whole-of-government arrangements had not been actively developed for the past decade.

“The Office of Spatial Data Management as it is presently configured is not well placed to manage a whole-of-government policy or investment framework on spatial data,” report authors wrote.

“There is merit in a policy department assuming responsibility for whole-of-government coordination and management of spatial data, with GA continuing to provide technical and data support as appropriate.”

Finance recommended the central policy centre to be located within GA’s parent Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism to minimise possible tensions with GA’s other priorities.

Overall, Finance believed Geoscience Australia’s activities to be “underpinned by a sound business case”; however, it called for the development of a more cohesive set of Key Performance Indicators, noting that current indicators were overly “broad and general”.

“The recommendations of the Review do not suggest radical change or re-alignment of GA activities but suggest a number of measures aimed at assisting the Government to achieve higher valued outcomes from the services and capabilities available from GA,” Finance reported.

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