OUCS 5-Year Plan: Major Capital Investments

The major capital investments that OUCS will need to cover fall under the area of supporting the University’s infrastructure, as outlined in the Corporate Plan in VI. What follows is a considered list of the major capital investment needed by Oxford to maintain its IT and Telecoms networks, and to expand them to meet the demands of a word-class University. We are already falling behind our competitors in areas such as wireless networking, institutional filestores, and repositories; and our network backbone will need major investment over the next few years.

In the list below, where possible, estimated timescales and costs are outlined.

1. Networking

1.1 The backbone network switching structure was upgraded to 10 Gbs in 2004. This will provide capacity until the next step-wise upgrade. On past experience this can be expected towards the end of the 5-year window. OUCS envisages that £1M should be budgeted for this. However, one area of uncertainty is the security aspects of a higher-speed network, and adequate control may depend on developments (such as high-speed firewalls) that cannot yet be predicted.

1.2 The network infrastructure is based around ducts and fibres installed in 1984. Although this continues to serve us well, the time is now long overdue to review cable provision to increase capacity and replace outdated cables. The issues of resilience should also be reconsidered. Although resilience has always been a prime consideration, a new risk-assessment, including the increasing demands of teaching, research and administration, may require extra resilience to be provided, including duplication of switching equipment and cable routes. This should be carried out in the next two years, and it is suggested that £0.6M should be budgeted.

1.3 The FroDo project has been funded and is underway. (The colleges have recently agreed, at least in principle, their contribution.) This will open up several new prospects, the main one of which is wireless networking.

1.4 Roving access must be high on the agenda of the ICT Strategy Group. In some cases, particularly colleges, wireless access (conforming to the model already established) may be expected to come about incrementally after the foundations are laid by FroDo. Central areas, for example libraries, may be more problematic. A bid last year for funds for provision of wireless access in 60 main University buildings was turned down, but this must be revisited. The layout of Oxford (and the construction of many buildings) means this is an expensive process. To equip 60 main buildings, budgetary costs are £1.5M capital. Recurrent equipment costs may be estimated at £100k. Running this network would require approximately two FTE.

Increased use of this technology will open up many other areas for exploration, and the opportunity to provide services directed at PDA and other mobile users.

1.5 Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) can be expected to be introduced in the next 2-3 years. This will present major technical challenges (throughout the University), but the capability is already there in the switching equipment, and no significant capital or recurrent expenditure is anticipated.

1.6 The Telephone Infrastructure is based on aging analogue technology, but at the moment is extremely reliable and fully maintainable. The next five years must see a change to VoIP technology, driven by demand for new services. Minor pilots will be carried out, but it is expected that the first major installation will be for the development of the Radcliffe Infirmary site. Funding for this will come as part of the RI site costs. However, a major transfer of the University telephone infrastructure to VoIP may be expected towards the end of the 5-year period. A migration strategy will have to be planned, and until this is done costs and timescales must be very uncertain, but overall costs are expected to be in the region of £2-3M.

1.7 Networking for VoIP and Building Management. OUCS has been funded to install a separate ‘secure’ backbone network that will provide the basic IP-based switching structure for the telephone network, and will be available for building-management and security functions. These will be arranged as needed by the Estates Department, and funded from the building projects needing the facility.

1.8 External Connectivity. SuperJanet 5 is expected to be installed in 2006, and it is hoped that Oxford will have a 10Gbs connection. Costs of this will be met from OUCS recurrent funding. The installation of FroDo gives an opportunity to consider again whether a separate commercial link should be provided. Some colleges are already using such a connection for conference use, and there has been discussion on whether some of the legal burdens on the University could be eased by using an ISP for residential access. FroDo would enable a central service to be provided for all colleges — it is not expected that this would come from University funds.

1.9 Security. The University continues to be a prime target for outside attack, and is also under constant threat from the deliberate and accidental actions of its members. OUCS has recently increased manpower in this area.

2. Central Services

2.1 Mail services. OUCS makes continual investment in central mail facilities to keep up with ever-increasing demand, both in the numbers and volume of email. A major investment has recently been made to provide a resilient and expandable fileserver for the Herald cluster, which will be brought into service early in 2006. If the IT Strategy leads to greater use of the central mailstore, further capacity will be required, and extra back-up facilities provided. £400k should be allocated for this.

2.2 Authentication and Authorisation Services. The ICT Strategy Group must consider authentication and directory services in a University-wide context, especially with regard to the supply and sharing of information from MIS projects and databases. OUCS will continue to develop and roll-out facilities.

2.3 WebLearn VLE. The VLE team has been primarily funded by external sources. However, security of funding must be achieved from central University funds to secure the long-term future of this important project. £150k per annum will be required to cover staff and hardware maintenance.

3. FileServer

3.1 The HFS Service must constantly expand to keep up with demand, and to cater for new and developing areas. Amongst areas that may need considering in the future are undergraduate backup, PDAs and other mobile devices, and system images. The last major upgrade (with HEFC funding) was completed in 2003. Extra storage capacity has recently been purchased from OUCS recurrent funding, and will be installed in early 2006. A more major upgrade, to replace the ageing P-Series processors, will be planned in 2006; £100k should be budgeted. A further £150k is needed to replace the ageing tape media. It is also important to upgrade the older tape drives over the next two years, at a cost of about £200k. In the slightly longer term a review is needed of on-site and off-site storage, with an intention of installing a second tape library at a separate location. This, apart from giving greater security, will relieve capacity bottlenecks by allowing duplicate copies to be made off the main library. A budgetary cost for this is £0.5M. Obsolescence of the 10-year old automated tape library at OUCS has begun (ie some parts are no longer being sold) and its replacement will become necessary around the end of the 5-year period. It is difficult to predict costs so far in advance in a changing market, but on present costs about £300k will be needed.

3.2 Departmental backup. An objective over the next three-four years should be to provide a more unified approach to support of backup, using a hierarchy or cluster of TSM servers and tape library devices, some of which can be located in user departments, giving them more direct control of local backup while still using the deep-storage facilities of the HFS. This could also lead to a greater emphasis on facilitating faster recovery of vital systems. It is expected that the ICT Strategy will address this general question. The budgetary cost would be £50-100k per unit, depending on size. This is highly dependent on a review of requirements.

3.3 ‘University Filestore’. The areas of filestore and repository must be a priority for consideration in the ICT Strategy because (a) the amount of data that the University holds is growing exponentially, and there is at present no framework for managing that data reliably and securely; (b) there are areas of new and pending legislation which will impose obligations on the University, and where it is necessary for it to be able to demonstrate compliance; (c) increasingly the University’s assets, in particular its library material and archives, will be held (sometimes solely) in digital form. Any policy must address two elements: a common tree structure so that data anywhere in the University could be accessed by anyone (with appropriate authorisation); and a central fileserver architecture providing a range of facilities, including a large-scale, high-performance repository, with secure backup and off-line facilities. Clearly a lot of this would be outside the remit of OUCS. Without guidance on the extent to which this might be addressed cost cannot be determined, however as an indication, a 100TB SAN-based system (one of several options) should be expected to cost about £0.8M, and require at least 2 FTE to support it.

4. User Facilities

4.1 Training Rooms and Help Centre. Unless OUCS relocates the pressure on existing user areas will have to be alleviated. Although two of our lecture rooms have been modernised recently (one through the HEFCE E-learning fund), our other two will need to be worked on soon, and possibly a fifth lecture room may need to be built. In addition our help centre facilities will need to be developed. Work on both of these should commence in 07, with an estimated budget of around £0.5m.

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