1. A Letter from the Director of IT

Paul Jeffreys, the Director of IT
‘the most imaginative and far-reaching
project ever undertaken by the department . . .’

There have been exciting developments and new opportunities in computing services at Oxford University during the past year. This annual report for 2008-2009 summarizes and celebrates the continuing efforts by Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS) to deliver high quality services and to support the Information Technology needs of the collegiate University. In fulfilling this mission we are grateful for the partnership with local IT staff across the collegiate University.

The Vice Chancellor and Gordon Frazer (Managing Director Microsoft UK)
signing a Letter of Understanding at the Groupware Launch in October
2008
I would particularly like to highlight what is arguably the most imaginative and far-reaching project ever undertaken by the department – Nexus1 This is a suite of software applications which combines a new email and calendaring system with a documentation and collaboration service designed to facilitate users working together in groups. It has been built on the Microsoft Exchange 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 platforms, and is available to users across the collegiate University. Microsoft believes this is the first targeted roll-out of SharePoint in Higher Education. The University chose the MOSS solution in July 2008, and it is a considerable achievement by the OUCS staff that they have not only successfully delivered hardware across two sites, but also integrated a complex solution and migrated a diverse range of users within a project which is both on time and within budget.

A further exciting development has been a Central Machine Room2 (CMR) which is being constructed in the basement of the new Oxford Molecular Pathology Institute. The initiative is in direct response to a recommendation from the Internal Auditors to offer greater resilience for enterprise-wide services. The CMR Project will ensure capacity, resilience and energy efficiency for business-critical ICT services; it will also provide a shared service for divisions, departments and colleges that require server hosting facilities.

Revised University IT governance, commissioned during 2007-2008, developed and bedded down over the course of the year. The PRAC ICT Sub-committee3, chaired by Professor Ewan McKendrick, provided effective oversight of IT across the collegiate University, and PICT’s OUCS Management Sub-Committee provided guidance to OUCS on priorities and for taking forward recommendations from the Services Funding Working Group. OUCS has been able fund a number of projects4 from a new ICT Project Development Envelope5 which has been authorized by the PRAC Budget Sub-committee; this is designed to pump-prime initiatives which will lead to new IT services for the University.

There is an increasing emphasis on green computing. For example, a key aspect in the design of the Central Machine Room has been energy efficiency; also, a new video conferencing service – WebEx – is currently under trial, which in due course should lead to a considerable reduction in the travel currently undertaken to attend meetings. Other initiatives include a project to reduce IT power consumption and to enable idle computers to be switched off6.

Information management and security is particularly challenging in institutes where the ICT infrastructure is highly devolved. An Information Security Best Practice7 exercise has been undertaken by OUCS, working closely with an Advisory Group from the ICT Forum8. This will lead to exchange of best practices, and an agreed set of information and security policies and rules for local implementation.

Further information about our activities is available in our Five-year Strategic Plan9, which lists our priorities for coming years. I would be pleased to receive comments on this Annual Report and the Five-year Strategic Plan, and hope that you will find both documents stimulating and informative.

Finally, I would like to thank the OUCS staff who have brought their dedication and experience to bear on the services we provide; they continue to respond with enthusiasm and professionalism. It seems clear that the next twelve months is likely to bring even more challenges, but also increased opportunities for the provision of information technology to fulfil the needs of the collegiate University.

Paul Jeffreys' signature

Professor Paul W. Jeffreys

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