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Thursday, 12 April 2012 13:39

Flinders floats cloud options


Adelaide based Flinders University is reviewing its entire information and technology approach with the recently installed CIO keen to shift increasing amounts of computing to the cloud.

Professor Richard Constantine Pro Vice-Chancellor (Information Services) and Chief Information Officer joined Flinders University late last year after 12 years at Swinburne University where he was CIO. Unlike most university CIOs Prof Constantine reports directly to the university vice chancellor and has been given oversight of the university's libraries, IT, Centre for Educational ICT, and e-research unit.

It's a brand new role for Flinders and according to Prof Constantine shows; 'The university is very forward thinking and is taking IT seriously.' Responsible for the entire university's information management strategies in the future, he is currently developing a multi-year plan for the university which will involve an infrastructure refresh and the piloting of cloud computing for disaster recovery.

That plan will also embrace a migration to a shared services model which will see the currently devolved IT infrastructure, where a lot of equipment is run out of individual faculties, become increasingly centralised from early 2013 - either on university owned equipment or in the cloud. The university already has some experience of cloud based services, having previously moved its email to Microsoft's cloud, and using the Moodle learning management system supplied as a cloud service by NetSpot, an Adelaide based company recently bought by Blackboard.

He also has plans to consolidate voice, video and data onto a single university network.

For the last three years Prof Constantine has also chaired the AARNet Advisory Committee and kept a close eye on the development of inter-university communications networks and telepresence.

Last month saw the release of the AARNet-Cisco TelePresence Exchange. This allows Australia's universities to directly connect their telepresence or immersive videoconferencing suites, and through a gateway to the National Lambda Rail programme in the US, connect internationally.

He said that with university locations in Adelaide, Darwin and Alice Springs, telepresence facilities linking the three operations would be 'an absolute winner'.

Prof Constantine manages a team of around 250 people and has a budget of $30 million a year to support the information and IT needs of more than 20,000 students and 2,500 staff.

He was interviewing for a director of IT last week, noting that the successful candidate would have to understand that as the university moved to use more externally provided information systems; 'The nature of their work will change. They will increasingly manage contracts, outcomes and services,' rather than build their own computer systems.

As part of the university-wide overhaul Prof Constantine is planning to transform the libraries, which are increasingly repositories of electronic information, into hubs where students can turn for information or for technology support. 'So they become almost a one-stop shop for student support,' he said.

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