CSIRO builds IT foundation

The nation's peak research body will spend between AU$12 million and AU$15 million annually over the next three years on key building blocks of ICT infrastructure, chief information officer Rozanne Frost said in an interview.
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor

The nation's peak research body will spend between AU$12 million and AU$15 million annually over the next three years on key building blocks of ICT infrastructure.

"We've called it the Foundation Program," Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) chief information officer Rozanne Frost told ZDNet Australia by telephone last week.

The project will involve building a number of new datacentres in capital cities, upgrading CSIRO's network infrastructure, rationalising its desktop fleet and cutting its server count down from 900 to between 300 and 400. "It is large," Frost said. "It's between AU$12-$15 million each year for the next three years."

Getting the Foundation Program under way has been one of the latest steps taken by Frost's Information Management & Technology (IM&T) unit as it attempts to centralise CSIRO's IT under one umbrella. The division was formed several years ago from what Frost described as the "the IT [units] from 23 different businesses" within CSIRO.

Some key contracts under the program have already been awarded -- for example in April last year Hitachi and Volante picked up an AU$4 million deal to bolster CSIRO's storage capacity to three petabytes (3,000 terabytes).

In most organisations the aforementioned infrastructure upgrades would be enough to keep any CIO busy. However, Frost and her team have a couple of other bodies of work underway at the moment.

For starters, the IM&T unit has a role in what CSIRO has dubbed its Business-Enabling Technology Review (BETR). This business-driven program's technology outcome is the implementation of a new 7,000-seat SAP environment -- mySAP Business Suite -- by outsourcer Fujitsu.

Beyond basic IT
However, the more exciting project to Frost's mind is the CSIRO's newly developed information management strategy.

"Once we've got that infrastructure Foundation Program, and that BETR project working, that's all our really basic stuff that just has to be there," she said.

"Our real game is moving forward to support the science much more closely. That program [the information management strategy] is the one that I'm most focused on as a CIO because it's more strategic and about our future."

Frost said the information management strategy had come about due to the ongoing boom in the amount of data which the research sector needed to store. That information needed to be classified through the use of standards and have lifecycle, security and privacy controls on it, she said. In addition it needed to be made accessible so scientists could collaborate on work -- sometimes between institutions.

Working alongside IT specialists within CSIRO's IM&T unit are a large number of librarians and records managers, who will be involved in the effort. Frost anticipates a significant growth in the next few years in the amount of staff within CSIRO who are focused on information management as opposed to pure IT specialists.

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