Griffith University is making a concerted push towards cloud-based and managed services as part of an overhaul to how its staff and students access business systems and online services.
A central element of its 'Project Iris' is what chief technology officer Bruce Callow calls a ‘digital workspace’ for staff, which bundles a virtualised desktop with a range of other services, including a web portal, cloud-based storage and an app store.
The program will also see its two on-premises data centres eventually rationalised to one by shifting applications to cloud-based services where appropriate.
Most of the work is expected to be completed by 2018. The university is currently looking for a ‘strategic partner’ to help deliver the project.
“What we’re accelerating is our ‘as-a-service’ model. The aim is to make sure we take a look at how we operate and the services that we deliver through a completely different lens, and a completely different eye," Callow told iTnews.
The program has been necessitated by growing pressures on university IT staff to respond to a changing digital landscape, he said.
“At one stage, to make a change in a university, if you did it over 10 years that was pretty fast. Now they’re demanding that we change very quickly, within six months. Therefore, we need to change how we deliver our services and how we engage those services.”
Callow anticipates the digital workspace environment will deliver improved agility by allowing staff to remotely access their work environment and applications.
He expects to enter negotiations with a preferred vendor for the platform by the start of next year. From there, the university will undertake a pilot program and, if successful, roll out the system to staff by the middle of next year. This will be followed by a later rollout for students.
“That will flow through to a similar activity, once we prove it there, for our students to improve their experience. A prime driver is the whole student experience. We’re commencing that as another major aspect of this,” Callow said.
While Griffith Uni has run a 15-month trial of Citrix XenDesktop to test the concept, the virtual desktop and mobile device management platform used in the pilot will be determined by the vendor.
Project Iris also entails moving on-premise applications to hosted services where practical.
“We have an application suite of around 300 to 600 applications, a lot of those are hosted internally, but they’ll eventually be hosted externally. In the past 12 months, we’ve gone from around 25 cloud-based services we utilise formally to 130," Callow said.
“We’re continuing to push that group of applications out as the opportunity arises and services become available.”
He is expecting to reap big cost savings from the move.
“We had three on-premise data centres, we’ve already closed one data centre and we’re down to two. The requirement on them is now reducing,” Callow said.
“However, I don’t know if we’ll ever get into a situation where we don’t own a data centre. Some areas of research deal with data sets that cannot move into the cloud and thus we will always have a need for on-premise data facilities.”