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December 17, 2011 / Kirsty Pitkin

Cloud and Shared Service Solutions

  1. Overview

  2. This workshop aimed to give IT and strategic decision-makers in HE a chance to find out more about the potential advantages and disadvantages of cloud and shared services, and the opportunity to reflect on the key factors that are likely to influence decisions in this area.

    The workshop was been jointly organised by two JISC-funded projects: Responsible Energy Costs led by the Forum for the Future, and Green IT for Science led by the University of Bradford.

  3. The Importance of Cloud and Shared Services to Future Organisational Effectiveness

    Richard Anning, Head, IT Faculty, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales 

  4. Anning provided a brief overview of the ICAEW, which was granted a royal charter by Queen Victoria
    in 1880 and currently has around 4,000 members.

    He specifically outlined the work of the IT faculty, which provides member services
    and thought leadership in the area of accountancy and IT.

  5. Anning: IT Faculty helps members keep up with mega trends, like cloud computing, with underlying theme of information security #greeningict
  6. Anning admitted that accountants are still in the very early
    adoption phase with cloud services, as they are risk averse by nature, so security,
    control and availability are key areas of concern.  However, the IT Faculty at ICAEW has held a conference to raise awareness about cloud computing and issued a publication covering many of the issues, so the themes under discussion at the Cloud and Shared Service Solutions workshop were very pertinent to their current work.

    You can watch Richard Anning’s presentation in full here:

  7. Key Business and Environmental
    Factors in Making Internal versus External Choices

    Martin Bennett, RECSO Project Leader 

    Peter James, Green IT for Science Project Leader

  8. James introduced the key concepts
    associated with cloud services, including SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, and
    the different cloud models available: Private, Community, Public and
    Hybrid.  He also outlined the different types of
    shared service identified by HEFCE and discussed the key decision factors that need to be considered when moving towards such services, focussing particularly on the complexities of costing such solutions when many of costs involved are not immediately
    apparent.

  9. James: People are divided as to their opinions about cloud services. This event will focus on cost as a key decision factor #greeningict
  10. Martin Bennett continued this theme, observing that cost information is not always easily
    available, making it difficult to identify the resources consumed by the different options. He observed that unless you’re able to calculate the costs involved
    in the different options, including your existing solution, you cannot make a clear comparison.

    Bennett discussed a breakdown of Amazon Web
    Services’ published costs, which included 13% spent on power and 18% spent on power distribution and cooling. He used this to illustrate the depth to which institutions need to probe the various costs factors when looking at the changes in ICT provision
    that are on the agenda at the moment.

    You can watch the presentation in full here:

  11. James and Bennett’s slides are also available here:
  12. The Cloud Adoption Toolkit:
    Supporting Cloud Adoption Decisions in the Enterprise

    Ian Sommerville, Professor of
    Software Engineering, University of St Andrews 

  13. Sommerville discussed some of the issues which have arisen during the development of a cloud adoption toolkit by the University of St Andrews.  Whilst this has been developed primarily for medium-sized enterprise, the toolkit can also be applied to many universities.

    He observed that many of the problems they encountered when creating this toolkit were human problems, not technical problems. There are a lot of concerns
    from users about the notion of loss of control, and concerns
    from IT management about losing their organisational influence.

  14. Sommerville: There are real and misplaced concerns about security, availability and compliance when moving to the cloud #greeningict
  15. Sommerville emphasised that in many cases cost modelling is often too simplistic.  Their toolkit helps organisations to identify their requirements in more detail, carry out price comparisons, and model their elastic demands.  He emphasised the importance of modelling workload patterns to get accurate costings, which informed their development of an infrastructure modelling language to help organisations describe both their infrastructure and the applications deployed on that infrastructure.  This enables users to model their workload patterns over time and generate reports demonstrating the costs that would be incurred from the different cloud providers for different loads.

  16. Sommerville: You get cost savings from the cloud when you have an elastic workload and can model it to get effective costings #greeningict
  17. Sommerville admitted that their initial approach to the whole problem was quite naïve. Importantly, they found that it is not all about money, as most of the concerns they identified were primarily business and risk concerns. He observed that many people assume that everyone wants to reduce costs, but they found that service companies in particular pass on their costs directly to their customers, so reducing costs is not always an incentive.  There was therefore a real need for a risk and
    benefits comparison within their toolkit to help people to understand the wider picture beyond a simple cost analysis.

    He concluded by stressing that the issue of costings is complex and if you take a simplistic, quantitative approach you are likely to make bad choices. Cost issues are important, but the social-technical issues are more significant.

    A full recording of Ian Sommerville’s presentation to the workshop can be found here:

  18. Sommerville’s slides to accompany this talk can be found here:
  19. Shared Services for ICT
    Infrastructure and Support

    Roger Hall, Project Manager,
    Research and Innovation, Plymouth University

  20. Hall provided a case study based on his experience managing a project which sought to investigate potential service sharing opportunities between Plymouth University and Plymouth City Council.

  21. Hall: When two organisations consider sharing services it is very much like getting married #greeningict #cloud
  22. He carried the marriage metaphor further by emphasising the need for a “pre-nuptial” agreement in the form of a non-disclosure agreement and an exit plan, should shared systems need to be separated in the future.  Once this was in place, the university and the council underwent an in depth survey to collect data about their processes, and conducted a series of workshops involving IT practitioners from both organisations, including a JISC enterprise architecture workshop.  The resulting analysis demonstrated that the two organisations were operationally quite well aligned, with fairly similar levels of ICT maturity.

    Hall outlined the process of identifying potential shared service opportunities, identifying “early adopter” services, and identifying the cultural differences which posed barriers to integration.

    He concluded by emphasising that time, resource and senior management buy-in are critical if a similar process is to be successful elsewhere. He also noted that it is helpful to have an external stimulus to help keep the momentum going, acknowledging the assistance of their consultant partners in the venture, Serco.

    You can watch a full recording of Roger Hall’s presentation here:

  23. The slides to accompany Hall’s talk are available here:
  24. Clear
    Thinking About the Cloud: 

    Understanding the Full Costs and
    Benefits of Internal and External IT Solutions

    Ged Powell, Janet

  25. Powell introduced the new Janet Brokerage service, which
    has been in existence for six months. The service aims to work with both the HE sector and suppliers to provide solutions on IT as a service, and facilitate the uptake of data centre, hosted and cloud services.
    They want to create a competitive market based on sound technical
    platform and hope to provide a complete service
    including commercial, legal and technical advice to those hoping to
    move the cloud. 

    Powell outlined their progress so far, including work with IT suppliers and their efforts to establish sector and commercial advisory boards.  He also presented their initial service menu,
    which includes colocation and data centre services, managed virtual
    servers, commodity storage, tiered storage, VLE, email, and disaster recovery.

    In the second half of his talk, Powell discussed the Brokerage’s approach to the delivery of benefits in terms of
    cost, carbon footprint and service enhancement.  He stressed that the cloud is a very complex and dynamic
    place:

  26. Powell: Cloud service business models are not consistent so it is difficult to make comparisons between services #greeningict #cloud
  27. He emphasised that it is not a matter of taking your services and transferring them onto the cloud. You cannot put everything in place and then throw a switch to make a university cloud-based.  The different parts of the university have different requirements and may need to be approached differently.  His hope is that the Janet Brokerage will help the sector to manage these transitions in a sustainable way.
  28. You can watch Ged Powell’s presentation in full here:
  29. The slides to accompany Powell’s talk are available here:
  30. Should We or Shouldn’t We? 

    Cloud
    and Shared Service Options and Key Factors in Assessing Them

    Paul Hopkins, HE-Associates
    (co-author of a JISC Report on Early FHE Adopters of Shared Services
    and Cloud Computing) 

  31. Hopkins observed that HE is becoming too
    expensive for most economies, so there is a drive within most
    institutions to move money from administrative functions to teaching and
    research. Institutions are having to learn how to become far more
    agile, and cloud services are seen as a way to enable this.

    Hopkins co-authored a JISC-funded FEAST study targeted at governors and vice chancellors, which examined what institutions will need to do to take advantage of the opportunities presented by both the cloud and shared services.

    He observed that their work highlighted the fact that there is something
    odd about the UK: in the US in particular, and across the world more generally, shared services in HE are
    very common, whereas in the UK every
    university is a separate legal entity, each with their own
    board with their own agenda, which makes top-down service sharing initiatives relatively unusual.

  32. Hopkins: The UK is unusual in having few shared services. Those we have are bottom up, voluntary collaborative efforts #greeningict #cloud
  33. Hopkins discussed some of their international case studies into these issues, including a study into the University of Canberra, which outsources all of their administrative processes.

  34. Hopkins: We haven’t got to the stage of having a university in a box, but some other countries have #greeningict #cloud
  35. He observed that few UK institutions have experience of being a service provider and adopting adopting external services. The report advises that institutions need to be clear about which services should they keep and which are commodities. Hopkins emphasised that institutions have to be proactive by selecting the services they will keep and identifying those of which they can divest themselves.

    He concluded that cloud is far more than a technology: it is about people, processes, strategies and a fair amount of hype. Things are moving incredibly fast and the sector needs to learn the skills internally before they move in this direction.

  36. You can watch Paul Hopkins’ presentation in full here:
  37. The slides to accompany Hopkins’ talk are available here:
  38. Cloud and Shared IT Services for
    Universities: A View from the Netherlands

    Bert van Zomeren, Technical University Delft, SURF Cloud
    Taskforce

    Femke Morsch, Community Support, SURFnet 

  39. Bert van Zomeren provided a brief overview of a Dutch initiative to implement a sector-wide cloud computing strategy through the efforts of a task force organised by SURF, a local agency with a similar remit to that of JISC in the UK.   He took us back to spring 2011, when a
    group of SURF executives and managers went to the US, visited the
    usual places, and came back with the clear impression that cloud
    computing was inevitable and may bring considerable advantages.  They instigated a a top-down initiative, formulating a clear vision for the sector, with a motto:

  40. Van Zomeren: SURF motto: Cloud First. When you make an infrastructure decision you must consider using the cloud #greeningict #cloud
  41. He emphasised that this does not mean they will put everything in the cloud, but simply that every time an institution makes a decision about their infrastructure they have to consider the cloud as their first option.

    Since implementing this strategy, the SURF task force has met with vendors to ask what they can do for them to help, and has set in motion an initiative to disseminate knowledge about cloud computing to primary institutions who cannot afford the time and expertise to research the available options.

    Van Zomeren outlined their plans for next year, which include developing their Cloud First strategy further by creating a reference architecture for the domain and building business cases to support sourcing decisions.  He also discussed their “wish list” of activities, including pilots, sandbox environments, and processes for allowing variations in the speed of adoption.

  42. Van Zomeren: Cloud is not heaven. It cannot solve all your problems. You need to manage expectations #greeningict #cloud
  43. Femke Morsch provided a short demonstration of SURFconnext which is a collaboration infrastructure
    allowing single sign on to a range of tools. SURFconnext is a portal providing widgets for different tools.  They key features include federated
    identity using the SAML protocol, centralised group management and
    the use of the Open Social protocol.

    You can watch Bert van Zomeren and Femke Morsch’s presentation in full here:

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