1. Oxford University Computing Services five-year plan: 2007-2011

1.1. Overview

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 sections presenting a review of last year's OUCS five-year plan, and then a section-by-section analysis of the key strategies outlined in the University's Corporate Plan.

2. Executive Summary

This report sets OUCS's objectives for 2007-2011 in the context of the University's Corporate Plan. We present a review of our last five-year plan, 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. In Appendix A we present a summary of our predicted major capital investments. In Appendix B we present a formal list of the objectives identified in the vision for 06-11.

3. Review of OUCS five year vision: 2006-2010

At the beginning of 2006 OUCS produced its five-year plan (see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/5yr/). This provided a detailed analysis of the future initiatives and developments within OUCS, listed a series of specific goals and tasks and demonstrated how these took forward the aims and objectives of OUCS linked to the Corporate Plan.

By considering the success we have had in discharging the objectives we are able to demonstrate how effective OUCS has been over the last year:

  • Of the 19 key objectives outlined for 05-06, seventeen were achieved or are part of our ongoing support (see Appendix B).
  • Only two have been placed on hold due to lack of funding.

4. University's ICT Strategy and the Enhanced Computing Environment

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 Strategic Plan (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. The ICT Strategic Plan is currently out for consultation with the wider community until 26 January 2007. Final documentation will be submitted to PRAC at the end of HT 2007. It should be noted therefore that this current OUCS 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 Programme.

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. The ICT Team was formed on the 1st January 2006, and consists of staff drawn from existing units in the three services. It is envisaged that the ECE will, in the future, also be offered to departments and colleges as a paid-for service.

5. Corporate Plan 2005-6 to 2009-10

The University's Corporate Plan was published in September 20051 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 direct consequences for 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 was analysed by Work Task C of the ICT Strategy and fed into the final document (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/worktasks/c/).

What follows in this document, therefore, 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 OUCS will:

  • continue to act as a centre of expertise and advice on IT related matters;
  • seek to develop, bring in, and support systems to facilitate the administrative processes behind teaching and research in collaboration with other bodies (such as BSP); as well as fostering innovation in teaching and research (VId 2);
  • 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 — WebAuth3 — and the exploration of web portals;
  • 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;
  • 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.

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 develop further appropriate communication channels. In the last year it has set up a Prototyping section specifically tasked with meeting academics, proactively collecting feedback, and assessing user needs. These then feed into requests for changes to existing services, or the development of new services within OUCS. The department has also established a series of representatives (‘reps’) who are attached to a specific department or college and liaise with the academics there to again get feedback on OUCS services. 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).

Maintaining OUCS's Existing Services

OUCS provides the University with a set of key services and systems which are critical to the University's core activities (e.g. the University backbone network, email servers, hierarchical file store, training programme, advice and support). The highest priority is to make sure that these are fully staffed and resourced to maintain the existing levelof service. The changing needs of the University together with advances in technology requires OUCS to continually review and, where appropriate, enhance, expand, or discontinue services. Therefore, the five-year plan lists specific objectives relating to OUCS which aim to ensure that critical services can continue to meet the requirements of the University (summarised in section 11)

As we have noted elsewhere, and as is clearly visible in our annual reports, the increasing demand for OUCS services shows no signs of abating. Many examples of this are available in OUCS's Annual Report4 but the following illustration of the increase in demand for the HFS5 is indicative:

Increased from 0 to 200 TB data 1996 - 2006
Figure 1. Increase in data handled by HFS service 1996 - 2006

The steep increase of demand over the last ten years for the HFS, and rapid increase more recently has not been matched with a rise in the level of funding to match this. Initial investment to set up the service was made by the University, and a further round of investment was made in 2001 to help with its expansion. However the bulk of the maintenance, development, and expansion of the HFS has been found out of OUCS's fixed budget. This is a simple but illustrative example. As a result it is increasingly difficult for OUCS to meet the levels of demand, both in terms of the number of users and also the level of service, faced by these services.

6. Meeting Strategic Objectives I: Research

One of the stated objectives in the mission statement of OUCS, and echoed in the Corporate Plan (§VI(d)), is to:

'foster and support excellence, innovation, best practice, and value for money in the use of IT in teaching, learning, and research across the University'

OUCS has a dedicated support unit — the Research Technologies Service (RTS) 6 (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 (§102). The RTS is working with other University departments to establish the ICT requirements of their research communities and to develop Virtual Research Environments (VRE) (Ib, and Ig). In connection with this, the RTS will also collaborate with the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC7) 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. After an appropriate period of evaluation it is intended that the RDS will be offered for use within other divisions .

Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to:

  • Develop infrastructure and tools for the next generation of collaborative research environments and provide a co-ordinating role for Oxford's VRE activities. This will very much be lead by the requirements of departments. The RTS will assist departments wishing to respond to future relevant funding opportunities and will seek funding to scope and, where relevant, pilot institutional VRE services. Target date: Ongoing (VRE); April 2007 (scoping/pilot proposal);
  • develop and launch an online Research Discovery Service available to all divisions, building on the system deployed by the Medical Sciences Division. Target date: MT 07. Cost: Developed by the ACDT, but maintenance cost c.£15k pa.
  • initiate a project to deploy a production Shibboleth-based access management service 8 to enable access to current Athens-protected information resources and provide integration between institutional and national information environments. Target date: Jan 2007 (Funded via ESP-Grid, SPIE and ShibGrid projects);
  • through OSS Watch inform and advise the UK HE and FE community about open source software and open standards through briefing materials, events, advisory service and partnerships. In 2006-2008 two particular areas of focus will be: assisting JISC-funded projects with implementation of the JISC open source policy; and working with technology transfer units in UK HE and FE to understand licensing and exploitation route for OSS Target date: Ongoing. (Funded via the JISC OSS Watch advisory service 9);
  • collaborate with the OeRC on projects and activities which support research across subject areas through the use of advanced ICT. OUCS is represented on the OeRC Directorate and in 2006/2007 an OUCS-OeRC liaison post will be established to assist in identifying and developing collaborative projects. Through the RTS, OUCS will work with the OeRC to establish a process and the funding models by which the development of e-infrastructure can flow into service provision. Target date: Jan 2007 (liaison post); August 2007 (service model);
  • proactively support the establishment of institutional repository services, particularly through representation on the Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group, the Oxford Research Archive Steering Group, and joint projects with the Library Services and other departments. Target date: 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. In addition, raise awareness about IT support services offered by OUCS's NSMS service 10 or research projects and ensure that OUCS premium services are properly allocated by research projects within the FEC model Target date: Ongoing. Funded via activities such as Oxford Text Archive, Intute Arts and Humanities, 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 2007. Funded through existing initiatives;
  • through participating in the ICT Strategy Programme 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. Target date: April 2008.

7. Meeting Strategic Objectives II: Learning and Teaching — Programmes and Methods

OUCS seeks to develop ICT services where they supplement existing teaching methods, especially as part of the tutorial system. This is the main approach of another of OUCS's units — the Learning Technologies Group (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/). With reference to IIb, via its Academic Computing Development Team (ACDT), the group develops innovative projects alongside academics. Throughout 06/07 one of these projects will be the rolling-out and embedding of the Tutorial Reporting System (OxCORT), an initiative led by senior tutors at colleges and funded in part by the HEFCE E-learning Innovation Fund and by college contributions. This has been developed by the ACDT from a product used at Cambridge University.

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). This has now been launched under the title ASPIRE11. The system allows one to record and reflect on past experiences and achievements, plan personal development by scheduling goals and activities, undertake an audit on one's confidence on a broad range of transferable skills, and automatically construct a draft CV for the data entered into the system. There are 3 separate versions of the software: undergraduate, taught masters and research postgraduate (which include contract research staff). The Research Postgraduate version has been funded by the EPSC GSAG by so-called ‘Roberts’ money, and the UG & Masters versions by the HEFCE e-learning fund.

WebLearn's development will be taken forward according to the demands of the user community, and it is also working alongside the SAKAI project in collaboration with the Universities of Cambridge, Hull, and Leeds in the UK; and worldwide ANU, Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, MIT, NYU, Penn State, Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCSB, etc.

Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to:

  • Continue the roll-out of ASPIRE with the Careers Service. Target date: Ongoing;
  • promote the outcomes of its analysis of the workshops held in 06 on IT tools to relieve the Administrative Burden on academics via training, and documentation. Target date: 07;
  • launch the Tutorial Reporting System (OxCort) as a pilot service, and then as a full service. Target date: TT 07, 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);
  • promote the effective use of ICT facilities in the classroom by exemplar teaching rooms at OUCS 9e.g. the ISIS lecture room);
  • 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);
  • fund the development of new teaching rooms in OUCS. Target dates: 07-09. Estimated cost: £600k.

8. Meeting Strategic Objectives III: Learning and Teaching — Size and Shape

OUCS is not directly affected by this strategic objective from the Corporate Plan 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 (and potentially the infrastructure charge). 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.

9. Meeting Strategic Objectives IV: Learning and Teaching — Admissions and Access

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 ensure that the core services can meet any changes in demand.

10. Meeting Strategic Objectives V: Enterprise and Collaboration

OUCS's main objective here is to build up further its links with national funding agencies such as HEFCE, JISC, and the Research Councils. 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. OUCS currently provides informal advice to Isis Innovation relating to the commercialisation of open source software. Within this area it is also 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. The Alumni Email Forwarding Service went live in November 2006.

11. Meeting Strategic Objectives VI: Academic and Student Services

This section is of direct relevance to OUCS as it focuses on service provision. We have already noted earlier that a key priority of OUCS is to maintain its core service provision and to expand (wherever possible). Here we look at specific targets for the next five years.

With reference initially to the Corporate Plan, sections §101 and §102 outline some key objectives for OUCS:

Corporate Plan Objectives Comment
Assist in the development of the University's ICT Strategy This is now complete. If the ICT Strategic Plan is ratified, OUCS will be heavily involved in its implementation.
Contributing towards the establishment of a common computing environment (now termed the ‘enhanced computing environment’) OUCS is assisting in this project (aka the ECE project) and this is now being led by a team separate to OUCS, the ICT Support Team.
Develop and support high quality infrastructure services (especially the network backbone, e-mail, web servers, backup, security, and training) Ongoing — see specific objectives below.
Developing new services Ongoing — see specific objectives below.
Improving network connection Ongoing — see specific objectives below. This will also be facilitated by the agreement to fund an extra post in the Network Support Team from 2007-2010.
Working on wireless and mobile access, Ongoing — though unless there is more central funding for hardware, OUCS's role can only be to give advice to departments. This will also be facilitated by the agreement to fund an extra post in the Network Support Team from 2007-2010.
Working in a federated environment with the distributed IT Staff Ongoing. OUCS will also be working closely with the proposed ICT Forum (a new association of University IT Staff).
Foster effective use of IT in all disciplines Ongoing, especially through our Learning Technologies Group and Research Technologies Service (see above, 6 and 7).
Provide training and tailored courses Ongoing. OUCS courses currently attract over 13,000 attendees per annum.
Support and promote the Virtual Learning Environment Ongoing. Funding for the development has now been secured until 2010.
Develop reusable and centralised e-learning resources Ongoing. Focus has also shifted to repositories to hold this material.
Promote research e-infrastructure (VREs, escience, etc) Ongoing, see especially section 6 above.

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), facilitating bottom-up developments, and form a coherent structure. To do this OUCS has set up a central client relations team, and a series of formal and informal links with colleges and departments via our OUCS Reps system.

Undoubtedly over the next five years the landscape of IT will change dramatically. 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 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 actions listed in the next section12. 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.

All of the following specifically target VIc and VId of the Corporate Plan.

Information Support

[See also section 6 Research]

  • Continue to run a shared information environment for use of IT Support Staff (the ITSS wiki), as well as developing secure delegated services aiming to enhance the facilities available to IT support staff across the collegiate University. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Explain, promote, and support good practice in web site management for the University. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Promote TEI XML markup as a preferred archival format for digital texts in the University, by providing support, training and tools. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Test the use of the Ubuntu desktop system, using a prototype LINUX system. Help Centre provision is being evaluated against this in the wider context of the ECE. Target date: June 07.
  • Introduce web-based CMS for OUCS intranet. Target date: September 2007.
  • Investigate and, if appropriate, implement a further integration of OUCS's front of house services. Target date: April 07.


  • Upgrade the University's backbone network. Target date: 08-09. Estimated cost: £1m13.
  • Continue the roll-out of the FroDo project, and 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 dates: 07-10. Estimated cost: £1.5m set-up; £150k recurrent cost.
  • Investigate and support the introduction of Internet Protocol Version 6. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Begin to eliminate the use of clear-text passwords, and migrate users to more secure systems. Target date: 08.
  • Plan and migrate University telecom systems to Voice over IP (VoIP). Target date: 09. Estimated cost: £3m.
  • Increase phase 2 of the storage and backup for the Herald mail facilities. Target date: 07. Estimated cost: £400k (money already received due to in-year PRAC grant).
  • 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 BSP.
  • Run and enhance HFS backup services by:
    - Upgrading drives.
    - Add SAN storage capacity.
    - Replace p650 servers.
  • Ensure resilience and security of the data on the HFS by acquiring a second tape library (with drives) in a separate location.
    * Replace the automated tape library, now ten years old.
  • Departmental backup servers might need to be unified. Target dates: 07-10. Estimated costs: £1.8m
  • Invest in a University filestore and repository system. Target dates: 07-10. Estimated costs: £2.7m.
  • Continue investigation into a Groupware solution. Finish analysis in 2007, with an aim to procurement/development of service in 2008.
  • Alongside the research projects into Shibboleth (noted in section 6), investigate, with the key personal data providers of the University, the development of a coherent, accurate, and timely Identity Management Service that will permit the provision of an effective Access Management service. Target dates: 07-08. Estimated cost: £220k.

Technology Support Services

  • Via our NSMS team, we will continue to provide IT Consultancy and Managed Services on a chargeable basis covering the following support areas:
    • - Auditing of IT facilities and requirements
    • - Consultancy on IT services and support
    • - Windows, Linux, Apple and NetWare server management services
    • - Firewall management services
    • - Webserver management services
    • - Research project support service
    • - Windows and Macintosh workstation support
    • - IT staff holiday cover
    • - Emergency cover support
    • - Exchange calendaring service

Learning Technologies

[See also section 7 ‘Learning and Teaching’]

  • Continue the development of the VLE system, bringing in new tools on a modular basis, linking up especially with such international projects as SAKAI. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Link the VLE to institutional-wide services wherever possible, such as ISIDORE.
  • 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.

General Strategy

  • Assist in the development of the Enhanced Computing Environment by offering appropriate support to the new ICT Team and interface their activities with those in OUCS. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Assist in the implementation of the University's ICT Strategic Plan (if ratified). Target date: Ongoing.

12. Meeting Strategic Objectives VII: Personnel

OUCS is continues to improve its personnel procedures and improve career progression. Through its IT Support Staff Service it also seeks to promote career development of the dispersed IT Staff.

13. Meeting Strategic Objectives VIII: Space

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.

Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to:

  • Identify new opportunities to solve the accommodation problem and relieve pressure on the machine room.
  • Depending upon the results of the review of OUCS's Front of House services, fund the development of the central user area to accommodate extra requirements. Target date: 07. Estimated cost: £100k.
  • Fund the development of the OUCS basements. Target date: 08. Estimated cost: £425k.

14. Meeting Strategic Objectives IX: Finance

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.

To this end OUCS will be meeting with the Services Funding Working Group (SFWG) throughout 07 to agree on future funding directions for the services.

Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to:

  • Liaise with the SFWG to review the funding of OUCS, and future developments. Target date: 07.
  • Align its spending plans and cycles with the recommendations to emerge from 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 premium services should be costed into research grants as 'directly incurred'.
  • Provide advice, via our RTS section, for researchers writing funding proposals for projects with a significant IT element, and promote the opportunities offered by our NSMS unit to purchase IT support and development. Target date: Ongoing.

15. Meeting Strategic Objectives X: Governance and Management

OUCS is participating in the discussions relating to governance recommended in the ICT Strategic Plan. 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.

Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to:

  • Monitor the recommendations to emerge from the ICT Strategic Plan which focus on the ICT environment and governance (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/worktasks/e/).
  • Respond accordingly to any changes in ICT Governance across the University as a result of the ICT Strategic Plan.

16. Key Performance Indicators

OUCS measures its 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, appropriate IT Committees, User Groups, and the new Prototyping Team and OUCS reps.

17. Risk Analysis

As with all departments and divisions OUCS will prepare and maintain an annual risk register. However, with reference to this plan 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.

However, two further risks are worth noting:

  • unless efforts are made to alleviate the burden on the machine room within OUCS the business continuity for key services may be compromised;
  • the SFWG will need to identify how to fund the long-term support and development of existing services offered by OUCS, and how to accommodate demands for new services.

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. This also is designed to align with Appendix A of the Draft ICT Strategic Plan.


Backbone network switching upgrade

The backbone 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. Target date: 08/09. Estimated cost: £1m.

Cabling and network duct updates

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 three years, and it is suggested that £0.9M should be budgeted. Target dates: 07-10. Estimated cost: £0.9m.

Mobile computing and telecommunications phase I: wireless

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 in 2005 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 £200k. Running this network would require approximately two FTE. However, it should be noted that OUCS has received funding (55k pa) to expand the Network Support team by 1 FTE from 07 for three years. This could be directed to this project (hence the variance in cost noted below with the ICT Strategy). 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. We will also be monitoring any development on a city-wide basis by the City Council who may be looking to partnerships with commercial suppliers. However, previous discussions indicate that such initiatives would not be looking to making sure wireless was available within University buildings or areas, and would focus on tourist locations.Target dates: 07-10. Estimated costs: £1.5m hardware, £150k recurrent for 3 years; total cost: c. £2m.

Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)

This 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.

Mobile computing and telecommunications phase II: VOIP.

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. Target date: 2009. Estimated cost: £3m.

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.

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.


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.

Central 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 (from OUCS reserves) to provide a resilient and expandable fileserver for the Herald cluster, which was brought into service early in 2006. Funding has also been received in-year to boost the quota to 1Gb per user by autumn 07. If the IT Strategy leads to greater use of the central mailstore, further capacity will be required in the future, and extra back-up facilities provided. A further review of expansion should take place in 09/10.

Identity management.

There are growing requirements for user identities to be handled in a strategic manner, so that departments, faculties, colleges, and central services have single sources of information to cover authentication and authorisation needs. This has to be co-ordinated by BSP, but OUCS will need to do a considerable amount of work in the background (e.g. providing robust reliable servers). Target dates: 08-09. Estimated costs: £220k.


OUCS has begun an analysis of existing groupware packages in response to growing user demand. Groupware packages combine a series of systems, such as email, calendaring, scheduling, and so on, into a single environment. This includes systems such as Microsoft Exchange. If our analysis indicates that such a system would be required then investment would be needed in hardware, staff, and possibly software licences. Target dates: 07-10. Estimated costs: £20k hardware, £500k pa licences, £100k staff pa; total - £1.82m (for three years plus recurrent costs thereafter).

VRE service.

OUCS (through RTS) will continue to play a coordinating role in the development of collaborative research environments and should lead its development. Currently, however, VREs are still experimental and domain-specific . By 2008 OUCS should be clearer about what common VRE interfaces and tools ('services') will be managed centrally and what needs to be managed by research groups. OUCS will continue its coordinating role and seek funding to scope the institutional VRE services at the earliest opportunity. Target dates: 08-10. Estimated costs: £50k hardware, £100k recurrent costs; total (over three years) £350k.


Central Backup (HFS) — four phases

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 taking the current configuration to capacity, and was installed in early 2006. Also during 2006, OUCS drew on reserves to fund the more pressing major upgrades, replacing the ageing p-Series processors and the older tape drives, as well as replacing the ageing tape media. Further updates should be planned during 2007 to upgrade the 3592 generation-1 tape drives to generation-2 and to provide additional disk storage servers. In 2008 it will be important to replace the p-Series servers installed in 2003. A budgetary cost for these three items is £770k in total (Project: HFS: update servers/disk storage/tape drives). 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 (Project: HFS: offsite library). Obsolescence of the 10-year old automated tape library at OUCS has begun (i.e, 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 £550k will be needed (Project: HFS: replace central tape library). Target dates: 07-11. Estimated costs: £ 1.8m.

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. We envisage that this should be done on a cost recovery basis.

Institutional Filestore — phases I and II.

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 for each of two phases, and require at least 2 FTE to support it. Target dates: 07-10. Estimated costs: £2.7m.


Teaching Rooms (Phases I and II) and Help Centre.

Unless OUCS relocates the pressure on existing user areas will have to be alleviated. Although three of our lecture rooms have been modernised recently (one through the HEFCE E-learning fund), the last one 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 in keeping with our review of the front of house services. Work on both of these should commence in 07. Target dates: 07-09. Estimated costs: £600k.


OUCS is currently suffering from sever limitations on space for staff accommodation and storage. The University Estates Office have identified two possible areas we could consider which would add value to the overall building — namely refurbishment of the basements and installation of a service lift to ease access to large (unused) storage areas. Target dates: 07-08. Estimated costs: £425k.

Machine room

The OUCS machine room is currently running at capacity and there is no room to accommodate extra servers. Furthermore, at certain periods there is a risk to key services due to the pressure on power and air-conditioning. As has also been highlighted, the single point of failure with OUCS's machine room implies considerable risks for key services within the University. Target date: 08/09-10. Estimated costs: £17m (N.B. this figure was drawn from the ICT Strategy which was considering a University-wide machine room available to all departments, and assumes that much of this could be cost recovery. OUCS's machine room needs should be considered separately — and in turn would be considerably lower than £17m).

Summary of ‘Capital’ Projects

The following lists the major capital projects identified above, and presents a slight modification of the table in the Draft ICT Strategic Plan (Appendix A). N.B. This does not cover all new services, expansion to existing services, or the need to address understaffing of core services, as some of these may simply be recurrent costs.

Capital costs covers hardware; recurrent costs covers maintenance, software licences, etc; staff covers new staff costs that OUCS cannot absorb with given funding levels.

2006 — 2007 2007 — 2008 2008 — 2009 2009 — 2010 2010 - 2011
Projects Priority Cap. Rec. Staff Cap. Rec. Staff Cap. Rec. Staff Cap. Rec. Staff Cap. Rec. Staff
Cabling and network duct M 900
Backbone network switching M 1000
HFS: off-site tape library/drives M 500 50
HFS: replace central tape library/drives M 300 30 200 20
HFS: update servers/disk storage/tape drives H 200 20 300 30 200 20
Groupware (10k users) M 20 500 100 500 100 500 100 500 100
ID Management H 20 100 100
Institutional Filestore I M 800 125 100 125 100 125 100 125 100
Institutional Filestore II M 800 80 80 80
Mobile Computing I: wireless H 1500 150 150 150
Teaching room phase I M 200
Mobile computing II: VOIP M 3000
Teaching room II L 400
VRE M 50 100 100 100
Accommodation H 425
Machine room H tbd tbd
Email M tbd
TOTALS 200 20 4645 855 200 5770 905 400 200+ 875 400 tbd 705 300

tbd = to be decided

Priorities: H — High; M = Medium; L = Low

Further Analysis of Objectives in OUCS Five-year plan 2006-2011

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. Achieved. Date of launch 5th> February 2006. This is the new service OxITEMS which is now being heavily used by departments, divisions, and the main University web site.
Expand (charged) PC hardware repair and maintenance service for commonly used platforms including laptops. Achieved. April 2006. A new chargeable service was set up in 2006 for data recovery and system installation.
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. Achieved. The very popular ITSS wiki system was launched in 2006. The ITSS support team is now back to its full complement of 3 FTE and can answer fast-tracked questions from IT Support Staff more quickly.
Increase the storage and backup for the Herald mail facilities. Target date: 06/07. Estimated cost: £400k. Achieved. First stage completed October 2006, funded from OUCS reserves. Next stage will depend on funding (from PRAC), now part of the ICT Strategy Roadmap.
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. Achieved. August 06. This was funded from OUCS reserves. The next stages of this have been submitted to the ICT Strategy Roadmap.
Develop the Tutorial Reporting System (OxCort) as a pilot service, and then as a full service. Achieved, MT 06. Launch TT 07.
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) Achieved. JISC projects delivered on time and within budget.
Develop and launch an online Research Disc overy Service . Target date: MT 06. Cost: Developed by the ACDT, but maintenance cost c.£15k pa. Achieved. Now handed over to Medical Sciences Division.
Develop and launch the Alumni Email Forwarding Service. Achieved. Service went live in November 2006. Some remaining development needed on the administrative interface.
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). Ongoing. A current JISC funded project is looking at games modelling and simulation.
Link the VLE to institutional-wide services wherever possible, such as ISIDORE. Ongoing. There are now regular meetings between the WebLearn team and OSS.
Develop a Training Needs Analysis tool to point people at appropriate courses. Target date: 07. Ongoing. A series of workshops have developed out of an analysis of administrative burdens on academics, as had a special tailored course on the use of Word.
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). Ongoing. WebLearn will have a peer-marking tool available in 07.
Explain, promote, and support good practice in web site management for the university. Ongoing. Notably in 2006 we assisted the University Offices in their procurement of a CMC system. We have also assisted the PRO and will help them organise a future web managers conference.All objectives for 2006 were successfully achieved.
Promote TEI XML markup as a preferred archival format for digital texts in the university, by providing support, training and tools. Ongoing. OUCS staff have been involved in several local and national workshops, some involving the AHRC. All objectives for 2006 were successfully achieved.
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. Ongoing Undertaken through external grants to the OSS-Watch project, hosted by OUCS's Research Technologies Service. All objectives for 2006 were successfully achieved.
Following on from the success of the FroDo project, continue to promote guidelines for the Oxford Wireless service (OWL). Ongoing. FRODO has had good take-up (see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/network/wireless/services/index.xml?ID=where). OWL VPN, and OWL Visitor are also proving to be very popular.
Review cabling, and update or replace existing cables and ducts. Target date: 07. Estimated Cost: £0.6m. Reviewed. No funding has been allocated to this by the University, although a small budget (£50k over 3 years) is now available via Estates. This is included in the ICT Strategy Roadmap.
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. Reviewed. Listed in the ICT Strategy Roadmap.

Supplement I to the Gazette, 136 (September, 2005).


References in bold point to sections and paragraphs in the Corporate Plan.


Specifically mentioned in §102.


Shibboleth is an authentication/authorisation service system that will replace the ATHENS username and password system in 07-08.








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).


Further details of some of the expenditure plans are also contained in Appendix A: OUCS 5-Year Plan: Major Capital Investments.