The Federal Government plans to share Centrelink's excess compute and storage capacity with other government agencies beyond the Human Services portfolio, including a potential future consolidation of IT resources with the Australian Tax Office and Department of Immigration.
Speaking with iTnews at the CeBIT Australia trade show today, former Centrelink CIO (now Deputy Secretary of ICT Infrastructure at the Department of Human Services) John Wadeson [pictured] confirmed that Centrelink's excess compute power and 788.5 terabytes of spare SAN storage capacity will be offered as a service to other federal agencies under a plan being formulated by the Government.
"We are going to try and create a single piece of infrastructure that will house the data centre environments for all these agencies. That's the plan," Wadeson said.
"But we're not going to get there next week. It's going to take time. First of all we have to get Centrelink's data centre issues in a better position."
Legislation to support the integration of ICT within Human Services agencies - including Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support Agency - is slated for the Autumn sitting of Parliament this time next year. Should it be passed, Human Services expects a three-year integration effort to follow from 2011-2014.
According to Catherine Rule, national manager, strategy and service delivery partnerships at Centrelink, the Government is assessing whether to then bring the Australian Tax Office, Department of Immigration and various State Governments into the same shared services pool, which would take a further five years between 2015-2020.
"If you look at what's going on around the world, everyone is consolidating and wants to be in a modern, well-supported data centre environment," Wadeson told iTnews. "You can't get there on your own. You are better [off] to get together.
"Virtualisation is making what was the impossible possible. Why wouldn't we be doing it as well? I would expect everyone is having these kinds of thoughts. My expectation is the way the technology is moving, the task of getting there will get easier over time."
Privacy concerns are "childish"
Wadeson brushed off concerns that a consolidated Human Services IT portfolio - and potential tie-ups with the ATO and Immigration departments - present a privacy risk.
"Privacy is an issue we will always have to watch," he said. "But [Human Services] Minister [Chris Bowen] made it breathtakingly clear in his talk in December. We are not building a single database here. We are going to use a consent model if we share data."
Wadeson said some privacy arguments are based on "childish" notions of how enterprise computing is delivered.
"People in IT understand that you can house things on one mainframe, and there is no risk of leakage from one part of it to another."
Read on to Page Two for a status update on the integration so far...
Progress to date
Wadeson has already brought together the ICT infrastructure teams of Centrelink, Medicare etc, and piloted a single consolidated point of contact for all Human Services inquiries during the 2010 Budget announcement.
He has surveyed his 2650 IT staff, all of whom have had a change of role, to determine the impact of the changes.
"What they really want to do is get on with it," he said. "The planning is long and slow. I don't get anyone coming and saying its a bad idea."
Next on Wadeson's agenda is to manage the co-location of Centrelink and Medicare offices from an IT perspective.
"We have to make sure when the offices do co-locate, that everyone can access all the systems they need," he said. "In the background we are planning the real heavy work, the integration."
Centrelink's data centres are some 20+ years old - but for a small portion of its computing needs being hosted at Canberra Data Centre under the Federal Government's interim data centre panel arrangements.
Wadeson said he would shortly make an announcement about "further work under the interim data centre panel arrangements."
He said the use of Canberra Data Centres' facility had been an eye opener.
"There is a quantum leap between Tier III data centres and our 20 year old plus facilities," he said.