This document presents the five-year plan for Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS). It takes the approach of directly discussing the objectives raised in the University’s Corporate Plan 2005-6 to 2009-10, indicating targets identified by OUCS to meet these strategic objectives.
The plan is divided into several sections presenting a review of the current OUCS five-year Vision Statement (akin to an ‘operational plan’), and then a section-by-section analysis of the key strategies outlined in the Corporate Plan.
This report sets our OUCS’s objectives for 2006-2011 in the light of the University’s Corporate Plan. We present a review of our existing Vision document (explained further in Appendix B), then a discussion of the University’s Corporate Plan and how it affects IT, and the new ICT Strategy and Enhanced Computing Environment. We then look at each section of the Corporate Plan and align our objectives to those presented there. Finally, in Appendix A, we present a summary of our predicted major capital investments.
At the beginning of 2005 OUCS produced its five-year Vision Statement (see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/5yr/2003-2008.xml). This provided a detailed analysis of the future initiatives and developments within OUCS, listing a series of 88 specific goals and tasks and demonstrating how these took forward the aims and objectives of OUCS. This plan was ratified by ICTC.
Many of the principles outlined in that document are still applicable, notably our views on the local, national, and international context of IT (0.2 and 0.3), and the considerations of the strategic direction of computing at Oxford (section 2).
- 88 specific goals were identified in the original plan.
- OUCS has completed 28 of these.
- 26 further goals are in progress, and some of them are near to completion.
- Of the remaining goals 29 have been identified as continuing activity for OUCS, i.e. part of our core continuing remit.
- Only 3 goals have been identified as being directly affected and
delayed by the emerging Enhanced Computing Environment.
* Only two goals have been noted as abandoned — one due to it being taken up by the University’s Web Strategies Group, and the other relating to the portal project (see below).
This document is a more concise text but is written assuming the Vision Statement as a background, and readers are asked to refer to that. Specifically here, however, we concentrate on furthering the strategies of the University’s Corporate Plan.
In addition to the background of the Vision Statement already available from OUCS, it should be noted that two major University initiatives are underway which will have profound effects on the future direction of OUCS. The first is the development of a University ICT Strategy (see http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/). OUCS has been contributing to this extensively, and will seek to align its objectives to those emerging from the Strategy. However, this activity is not due to report until April 2006 and few recommendations have emerged so far. It should be noted therefore that this current five-year plan has been written on the understanding that it will have to be reconsidered once the University’s ICT Strategy is formalised. Where appropriate in this document we have referred to key work tasks of the ICT Strategy.
The second initiative is the Enhanced Computing Environment (ECE, see http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/team/). This is seeking to develop and roll-out an enhanced desktop service to OUCS, OULS, and Central Administration. It will do so via the formation of the ICT Team on the 1st January 2006, which will consist of staff drawn from existing units in the three services. It is envisaged that this will, in the future, also be offered to departments and colleges as a paid-for service.
The emergence of the ECE will also have an impact on OUCS. First, it will directly affect the demands on some of the core services we already offer and may require us to change direction with some of these. Second, the formal/informal relationship between the ICT Team and OUCS will need to be explored. Finally, if there is widespread take-up of the ECE across the University this will have a direct impact on the level and nature of support offered by OUCS. It is clearly too early to predict any of this, but undoubtedly this will require future adjustments to our strategy.
The University’s Corporate Plan was published in September 2005 (Supplement I to the Gazette, 136 (September, 2005).) after a lengthy consultation process. OUCS welcomed the publication of this document as it set out a pragmatic approach to ten key strategic target areas for Oxford, whilst at the same time protecting the values and overall principles of the University. Clearly the plan is aimed primarily at academic divisions and departments, and certain objectives (such as the targets for student numbers) are not directly relevant to OUCS. However, even such objectives may have a direct effect on OUCS’s services and the department needs to be ready to accommodate these. Furthermore, the impact of the Corporate Plan across the whole of IT within the University is being analysed by Work Task C of the ICT Strategy and OUCS will be monitoring its recommendations closely (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/worktasks/c/).
What follows then is a section-by-section discussion of the ten strategic areas — focussing on key topics such as teaching, research, and overall support services. Under these we then list the key objectives OUCS proposes which will assist the University in meeting these strategies. It is important to note though, that ICT will increasingly be used to monitor, audit, and facilitate many of the administrative processes that support these strategies. It will also be used to disseminate information in a speedy and appropriate manner. Specifically then:
- OUCS will seek to develop, bring in, and support systems to facilitate the administrative processes behind teaching and research in collaboration with other bodies (such as MIS); as well as fostering innovation in teaching and research (VId (References in bold point to sections and paragraphs in the Corporate Plan.));
- OUCS will seek to develop and support communication tools that facilitate speedy dissemination of information to people on demand; in particular we will be promoting a ‘unified and seamless access’ approach through the developing Single Sign-On (SSO) facility — WebAuth — and the exploration of web portals;
- OUCS will continue to promote the use of open/agreed standards for data interchange. We view this as crucial if the University is to successfully manage the data flow of information from system to system, and to develop a managed environment for its systems and architecture;
- OUCS will act in a customer-driven way developing its services to the needs of the academics and students within the University (VIc); it will adopt a project-based approach to this by developing business cases, support and dissemination procedures, and appropriate sustainability policies.
- OUCS will continue to act as a centre of expertise and advice on IT related matters.
To abstract a key point from the above, OUCS will continue to be responsive to the needs of the academic users within the University, and will seek to further develop appropriate communication channels. Through its IT Support Staff Service the department already has excellent links with the dispersed IT Support throughout the University and it will seek to build on this. In addition, however, it will be proactively seeking to build links with academic users via division, department, and faculty IT committees; and via college links (formal and informal). Finally OUCS will be monitoring closely the recommendations to emerge from Work Task D of the University’s ICT Strategy which is focussing on the IT needs of the Collegiate University (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/worktasks/d/).
OUCS has a dedicated support unit — the Research Technologies Service (RTS) (Specifically mentioned in §102.) (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/rts/) which, through funding from external bodies, develops cutting edge applications to support research, and provides advisory services for the University and beyond. The activities of the RTS complement the infrastructure and other support services provided by OUCS.
As described in the Corporate Plan the RTS is a centre of expertise supporting the development of research e-infrastructure, including e-science/e-research (§102). The RTS is working with other University departments to develop Virtual Research Environments (VRE) (Ib, and Ig). In connection with this, the RTS will also collaborate with the Interdisciplinary e-Research Centre (IeRC) and other relevant University units to investigate the development of tools to support the administration and auditing of research activity (Id). This activity includes an emphasis on assisting with project management and the sharing of research information and outputs, especially across disciplinary boundaries. One example of current activity in this area is the development of a Research Discovery Service (RDS) by the Academic Computing Development Team (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/acdt/) in partnership with the Medical Sciences Division and the Research Technologies Service. The RDS will be offered to other divisions also.
- Develop infrastructure and tools for the next generation of collaborative research environments and provide a communications forum, both internal and external, for Oxford's VRE activities. This will also help articulate subsequent responses from Oxford to future relevant funding opportunities. Target date: Ongoing (VRE); April 2006 (forum).
- Develop and launch an online Research Discovery Service available to all divisions. Target date: MT 06. Cost: Developed by the ACDT, but maintenance cost c.£15k pa.
- Investigate how Shibboleth and other access management protocols offers solutions to issues of grid authentication, authorisation and security; and in providing integration between institutional and national information environments. We will ensure that the outcomes from the RTS access management projects are considered by and, where appropriate, incorporated into any institutional access management implementation plan. Target date: Sept 2006 (Funded via ESP-Grid, SPIE and ShibGrid projects)
- Inform and advise the UK HE and FE community about open source software and open standards through briefing materials, events, advisory service and partnerships (on going). In addition, develop and communicate best practice models for software development, especially in regard to open source software licensing. Target date: July 2006. (Funded via the JISC OSS Watch advisory service)
- Make available resources and services via the UK National Grid Service and support researchers in the academic community to grid-enable research applications; assist in the implementation and deployment of Grid technologies; and, in collaboration with the IeRC, contribute to the development and use of the campus grid. (Ongoing, funded via NGS compute cluster).
- Proactively support the establishment of an institutional research repository, particularly through participation in the Digital Archiving Group. (Ongoing)
- Promote OUCS (and other) services for assisting in the development of funding proposals for e-research and the application of best practice in the creation, use and preservation of digital resources. Within this context we will also enable a forum to bring together research projects to share best practice, business and sustainability models. Target date: May 2006. Funded via activities such as Oxford Text Archive, Humbul Humanities Hub, VREs etc.
- Co-ordinate, on behalf of OUCS, a range of awareness-raising and training activities relating to services and technologies to support e-research. Target date: October 2006. Funded through existing initiatives.
- Through participating in the ICT Strategy and subsequent implementation planning, assist in developing an e-research support strategy which addresses the need for clear, coherent and co-ordinated IT support for research, whether projects or individual scholars. (Sept 2006)
- Provide an opportunity to buy in IT services via our NSMS unit (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nsms/).
OUCS seeks to develop ICT where it supplements existing teaching methods, especially the tutorial system. This is the main approach of another of its units — the Learning Technologies Group (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/). With reference to IIb, via its Academic Computing Development Team, the group develops innovative projects alongside academics. Throughout 06/07 one of these projects will be the setting up and development of a Tutorial Reporting System, an initiative led by senior tutors at colleges and funded in part by the HEFCE E-learning Innovation Fund and by college contributions.
Elsewhere, under the WebLearn team (the University’s central VLE — see section 11), the Learning Technologies Group is directly working on an e-portfolio system in collaboration with the Graduate Skills Committee and the University’s Careers service (IIb, and IIg).
- Launch the Tutorial Reporting System (OxCort) as a pilot service, and then as a full service. Target date: MT 06 (pilot), MT 07 (full service). Cost: purchased by colleges and E-learning Innovation fund. Development costs partly met by ACDT, but annual maintenance cost thereafter £10-15k.
- Develop and promote the use of the VLE WebLearn (see section 11 below).
- Research and implement technology that provides teachers and learners with assessment technologies that increase the quality and ease by which questions can be authored and subsequent marking performed (IIb).
- Research and implement technology that allows learners to share and express their understanding. Specifically this could be through the use of blogs and wikis or through more advanced shared graphical simulation technologies (IIc).
OUCS is not directly affected by this strategic objective as it does not run matriculated courses for students, nor is it involved in student recruitment. However, a shift in the size or demographic of the student body will possibly affect the demands on some of the services offered by OUCS. We will be ensuring that the core services can meet any up-turn. In addition the LTG will continue to develop its relationship with the Department for Continuing Education’s Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning team.
Again OUCS is not directly affected by this strategic objective as it does not deal with admissions, nor is it involved in student recruitment. However, as noted above any major change in the size or demographic of the student body will possibly affect the demands on some of the services offered by OUCS. For example, increased recruitment of international students will necessitate seamless access to the Universities from increasing numbers of remote sites. We will be ensuring that the core services can meet any changes in demand.
OUCS’s main objective here is to further build up its links with national funding agencies such as HEFCE and JISC. In turn it will seek to inform faculties, departments, and colleges about new funding opportunities; as well as bidding for external grants to cover some of its own new initiatives. OUCS will also liaise with local bodies to identify opportunities to provide appropriate (and funded) IT training and certification where possible. Within this area it is worth mentioning the developments concerning the University alumni. OUCS has become closely involved with and committed to providing technical assistance for the University Society's requirements for supporting services to the alumni. We are now about to enter a major shift in scale, by planning developments to bring in all the old alumni (c.120,000) about which the development office have information some time later this year (possibly September/October). The developments required are well understood and
- assist in the development of the University’s ICT Strategy
- contributing towards the establishment of a common computing environment (now termed the ‘enhanced computing environment’)
- develop and support high quality infrastructure services (especially the network backbone, e-mail, web servers, backup, security, and training)
- developing new services
- improving network connection
- working on wireless and mobile access
- working in a federated environment with the distributed IT Staff
- foster effective use of IT in all disciplines
- provide training and tailored courses
- support and promote the Virtual Learning Environment
- develop reusable and centralised e-learning resources
- promote research e-infrastructure (VREs, escience, etc)
In addition there is an overriding need to make sure that developments in these areas, and others, meet the needs of academics and students (§104, §105, and IIf), and form a coherent structure. This is also a major area of concern for the ICT Strategy.
Undoubtedly over the next five years the landscape of IT will change dramatically. As noted in our Vision Statement we constantly strive to be aware of the changes in underlying technology, the changes in the demographic of the user, and the changes in the patterns of use. We note, for example, the almost ubiquitous rise in IT literacy across staff and students, and at the same time an integration of computing technology and access to information across a range of easy-to-use devices (such as the new generation of mobile phones). OUCS will aim to be in a position to tap into these new opportunities, but also recognises that this may shift the balance of IT support from user help to areas such as integration and interoperability.
In terms of underlying hardware we recognise the demands for wireless technology, roving access, and mobile learning. With the advent of the FroDo project, and the new network potential coming with SuperJanet 5 the University is in an excellent position to take forward all of this provided sufficient funding is made available. Changes are also taking place with telecoms, and OUCS (now in charge of Telecoms) is monitoring the progress of such initiatives as Voice over IP.
Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to do the following(It is also important to cross-refer this section with other key areas in this five-year plan, notably our strategies to facilitate research (section 6), and teaching and learning (section 7).). These will be the responsibility of several groups across the department; notably the Information and Support Group which contains the Information Systems team, Registration Services, the Research Technologies Services, and the IT Support Staff Service; the Infrastructure Group which includes Networks, System Development, Telecoms, and the HFS; our Technical Support Services, which contains our Network Systems and Services Team (NSMS); and our Learning Technologies Group, in charge of training, the VLE, and e-learning research and development..
- Create a shared information environment for use of IT Support Staff by setting up a content management system for common user documentation. In addition we will enhance services available for distributed ITSS by developing a "fast-track" help line and co-ordination of specialist training opportunities, as well as developing secure delegated services aiming to enhance the facilities available to IT support staff across the collegiate university. Target date: March 06.
- Establish and promote a service for creating, publishing and aggregating RSS news items across the university, including the description of event data (also applicable to supporting research — I). Target date: Feb 06.
- Explain, promote, and support good practice in web site management for the university.
- Develop a coherent Information Strategy across the department (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/oucsweb/).
- Promote TEI XML markup as a preferred archival format for digital texts in the university, by providing support, training and tools.
- Introduce LINUX desktop systems into the help centre. Target date: January 07.
- Expand (charged) PC hardware repair and maintenance service for commonly used platforms including laptops. Target date: August 06.
- Upgrade the University’s backbone network. Target date: 09. Estimated cost: £1m(Further details of some of the expenditure plans are also contained in Appendix A: OUCS 5-Year Plan: Major Capital Investments. ).
- Review cabling, and update or replace existing cables and ducts. Target date: 07. Estimated Cost: £0.6m.
- Following on from the success of the FroDo project, continue to promote guidelines for the Oxford Wireless service (OWL).
- Seek University funding to promote the use of mobile access, via handheld devices and wireless technology. Target date: 06. Estimated cost: £1.5m set-up; £200k recurrent cost.
- Investigate and support the introduction of Internet Protocol Version 6.
- Plan and migrate University telecom systems to Voice over IP (VoIP). Target date: 09. Estimated cost: £2-3m.
- Increase the storage and backup for the Herald mail facilities. Target date: 06/07. Estimated cost: £400k.
- Continue to develop and roll-out facilities authentication and authorisation services. Particular emphasis here is on the promotion of the Single Sign-on system, and development of registry services in collaboration with MIS.
- Major upgrade to the Hierarchical File Server (HFS) is urgently required. This would involve replacing processors, tape media, and tape drives. Target date: 06/07. Estimated cost: £450k.
- To ensure resilience and security of the data on the HFS a second tape library is needed in a separate location. Target date: 07. Estimated cost: £500k.
- Finally the automated tape library, now ten years old, will need to be replaced in the future. Target date: 09. Estimated cost: £300k.
- Departmental backup servers might need to be unified. Target date: 07/08. Estimated cost: £50-100k per unit.
- The University will need to invest in a filestore and repository system. OUCS has reviewed the possibilities including for example a SAN-based system. Target date: 06/07. Estimated cost: £800k, plus £100k recurrent costs.
- Via our NSMS team, we will continue to provide IT Consultancy and Managed Services on a chargeable basis covering the following support areas:
- Continue the development of the VLE system, bringing in new tools on a modular basis, and secure its long term funding. Target date: 07. Estimated cost: £150k recurrent.
- Link the VLE to institutional-wide services wherever possible, such as ISIDORE.
- Explore the potential of reusable learning objects.
- Develop a Training Needs Analysis tool to point people at appropriate courses. Target date: 07.
- Provide primer material to allow user awareness prior to attending courses. Target date: 07.
The buildings and facilities at OUCS are currently running to capacity. Yet increasingly we are being asked to house major IT projects or initiatives (including staff and hardware). This has meant that our existing facilities, notably our machine room and office space, are overstretched.
It is important that as well as facilitating administrative processes identified in the Corporate Plan, sufficient funding is diverted to IT projects and services, and money is made available to allow OUCS to upgrade its existing services, and add new ones as required. The financial burden of adding new IT services and maintaining them must be recognised by the University. Furthermore, procedures must be adopted to streamline any increased revenue arising from the adoption of Full Economic Costing for central services into the infrastructure charge.
- Align its spending plans and cycles with the recommendations to emerge from Work Tasks H and I of the ICT Strategy which are focusing on large-scale IT investments, timescales, and costs (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/worktasks/h/ and http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/worktasks/i/).
- Investigate which services might be costed into research grants as 'directly incurred' rather than remaining within 'indirect' under FEC.
- Provide advice on writing bids via our RTS unit, and also on the implications of FEC and TRAC and the opportunity to buy-in IT support and development via our NSMS unit.
OUCS is participating in the discussions relating to governance in the ICT Strategy. It is particularly concerned with achieving some form of cohesive planning for major IT initiatives, and a reporting line to senior management in the new University structure that recognises the critical importance of IT to the running of the University and the success of the Corporate Plan.
- Monitor the recommendations to emerge from Work Task E of the ICT Strategy which is focusing on the ICT environment and governance (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/worktasks/e/).
OUCS measures it’s performance on use of its services, and user satisfaction surveys. Both of these are analysed and reported on in its Annual Report which is circulated in print form and via the Web. Primarily we focus on increases or decreases in the use (number of users, traffic, patterns of use, etc) of our core services to monitor progress and identify areas of improvement. We also receive qualitative feedback through our links with IT Support Staff and appropriate IT Committees and User Groups.
The risk to the University of not completing or achieving most of the above mainly falls under two categories. First our IT infrastructure will be compromised, especially with relation to business continuity; but also in terms of the facilities we can offer to the staff and students. Oxford would begin to seriously fall behind its competitors in terms of what it can support. Second, picking up on a common theme throughout this plan, unless concerted efforts are made to target interoperability between systems and data, a fragmented IT infrastructure will emerge which will lead to considerable inefficiencies.
- unless funding for the VLE is secured in the future the long-term support for this system would have to be reviewed
- unless the upgrades to the HFS are realised the service will reach saturation point
- unless efforts are made to alleviate the burden on the machine room within OUCS the business continuity for key services may be compromised
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.
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.
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.
2.1 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.
3.1 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.
4.1 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.
In keeping with University policy, OUCS produced a 5-year vision in 04/05, complete with short-term, medium-term, and long term objectives. At the end of that report (circulated to ICTC) a list of objectives and activities was provided. This brief summary acts as a progress report on these activities, and a signing-off of certain goals which have been achieved during the year.
- 88 specific goals were identified in the original plan
- OUCS has completed 28 of these
- 26 further goals are in progress, and some of them are near to completion
- Of the remaining goals 29 have been identified as continuing activity for OUCS, i.e. part of our core continuing remit
- Only 3 goals have been identified as being directly affected and
delayed by the emerging Enhanced Computing Environment
* Only two goals have been noted as abandoned — one due to it being taken up by the University’s Web Strategies Group, and the other relating to the portal project (see below).
We suggest that this demonstrates a very productive year for the department in that we have achieved most of the goals (or are working on them) identified by OUCS and ratified by ICTC. However, we would like to draw attention to a few important points:
- This success has been achieved in spite of the constraints currently imposed on OUCS in terms of resourcing, and many crucial developments have not been allowed to go ahead due to lack of resources.
- We feel it is important to stress that any new service asked of OUCS has a considerable resourcing implication in terms of capital costs, pressure on existing facilities (notably our machine room which currently is filled to capacity), and staff costs (development, testing, maintenance, and support). The marginal costs of such services needs to be recognised centrally, and as OUCS is currently operating at capacity any new service can only be accommodated if it is matched by new funding or an existing service is ceased.
- Three key projects and initiatives did not succeed due to the fact that the University did not allot strategic funding to these initiatives. These were:
a) A University-wide filestore
b) A roll-out of wireless across University departments and public places
c) The development of the University portal
In Hilary Term we will revise our report and produce a new 5-year vision statement (covering 2006-2011). This will be done in the light of forthcoming University guidelines on producing such reports within the general framework of the Corporate Plan, and the emerging University-wide ICT Strategy.
|Goals/Tasks||Relates to Objective||Comments|
|Complete the final parts of the backbone network upgrade to 10 Gbps, with minimal disruption to service||4.1.1, 4.1.4|
|Seek University support and funding for hardware required||4.1.1, 4.1.3|
|Transfer telecommunications services and NSMS web service to new technology||3.5|
|Complete OUCS wireless pilot project||18.104.22.168||Information available at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/network/wireless/|
|Participate in University decision-making regarding extent and funding of future developments||22.214.171.124||Funding refused|
|Introduce additional TSM servers to cope with continued growth in demand||4.2|
|Evaluate and introduce new TSM features (such as collocated files on tape) to improve quality of service||4.2||Is also a continuing activity.|
|Conduct pilot study/studies for the Central Filestore leading to a firm proposal||4.2||Funding refused|
|Update the hardware base underlying central service provision as required, taking advantage of developments in data storage technology (and potentially integrating with the Central Filestore)||4.2||Hardware updated but funding refused — see above|
|If appropriate, migrate and enhance registration database services to new server||4.5.1|
|Investigate the integration of the existing OUCS Kerberos implementation with Novell’s NMAS method to provide integrated authentication across the department for all types of PC workstations||4.5.1|
|Produce annual report on activities, common problems etc, primarily for ITSS conference||3.4|
|Identify and document suite of general purpose technical support procedures (e.g. operating system re-install||e.g.www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/helpcentre/troubleshooting/winxp|
|Re-launch internal home page as a collaboratively authored WIKI||3.4|
|Master source of all static OUCS web pages held in validated XML||5.1|
|Develop and deploy mechanism for routine monitoring and 6-monthly reporting on compliance of all OUCS web services with W3C WAI AA standards|
|Implemented recommended search engine solution and promote to ITSS and institutional webmaster||5.1|
|Implement pilot WIKI application (for Help Centre staff) and report on usability and appropriateness of this technology||5.1|
|Provide input to email addressing policy review||4.1.4|
|Provide facilities for users to manage their own email routings|
|Deliver draft Infrastructure Metric to ICTC and seek agreement that trial can be made||4.4.1|
|Assist ICTC in implementation of trial Infrastructure Metric and then full evaluation||3.1, 3.2, 3.3|
|Mount initial OUCS course material online under the VLE, and report to SMG and ICTC||4.3||Available at
|Aim to implement modular course booking, and report to SMG||4.3|
|Investigate and promote the next level of VLE development and report to SMG||4.3.1|
|Outline a (Service-Oriented) architecture for a VRE, which comprise interoperable services in support of the research life-cycle; report to ICTC||4.4.1||This is taking place via the three VRE projects|
|Develop points of integration between Weblearn, Webmail and the OUCS portal||4.4.1|
|Complete new secure office||5.4|