The long-awaited software is due by the end of this year, but has already suffered several delays in getting to the market.
"We're really at the moment adopting a wait and see attitude. It's not something that we're really going to be dependent on, because we've got quite a modern standard operating environment at the moment," the University of Tasmania's IT director, John Parry, told ZDNet Australia via telephone late last week.
"We'd certainly want to put it through an appropriate testing regime before we deployed it more university-wide," he added.
Like most universities, UTas maintains a fleet of several thousand laptop and desktop machines, with the total reportedly approaching 5,000 several years ago. The uni has around 12,000 students and a sizeable workforce.
Parry admitted, however, that his department was giving Vista a certain amount of consideration. In part, this is due to the shrinking windows of opportunity which UTas will have to push the software out.
"One of the challenges that I'm finding, and I'm sure CIOs across Australia (and certainly in universities) are too, is that it's becoming more and more of a challenge to see when you'd roll these technologies out," said Parry.
"If Windows comes out in the November time frame, by the time we've done all our testing and quality assurance, it'd be the start of the next academic year. And we're not going to do a major rollout that close to the start of the academic year."
Parry's comments echo sentiments expressed by Adrian Yarrow, Central Queensland University manager of corporate systems administration.
"We get three weeks out of 52 to actually do anything major," Yarrow told ZDNet Australia last month. CQU and UTas both continue teaching over the summer break.
"Now, the absolute best break we've got between teaching is three weeks in the middle of the year," said Yarrow.
"The windows of opportunity for deploying new technologies are certainly shrinking," agreed Parry.
In any case, Parry certainly has enough on his plate right now without worrying about Vista off in the future.
"We've just commenced a major project to look at our student lifecycle information management system," he said. "That's just ramping up -- that'll be a very large project."
"We have rolled out wireless network across our campuses as well, and are doing a number of upgrades to our core business systems."
Like CQU, UTas has started capturing videos of its lectures and streaming them to students. In addition, the uni is continually refurbishing its desktop, network and telecommunications systems.
In the next 12 months it will also consider moving more of its telephony onto its data network. The uni already uses a significant amount of IP telephony in some areas.
Top of mind
Parry flagged security, aligning IT projects with business needs and the pace of change of technology when asked what CIO-level issues kept him awake at night.
"It's fair to say security and access are a big challenge -- getting the balance between those two," he said, noting wireless access was particularly problematic.
"Being a university environment, flexible access is always a big issue, and ensuring that that has appropriate security controls around it, sometimes goes counter to the access requirements that people have."
"To some degree the pace of change of technology is also a challenge," he said, adding it wasn't always possible in large organisations to please early adopters and upgrade or change technologies often.
Looking into the future a bit, Parry expects the increasing costs around enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to become an issue for CIOs.
When this factor is combined with the consolidation of ERP software vendors taking place (for example, Oracle snapping up JD Edwards and Peoplesoft), Parry expects alternative open source ERP systems to gain more popularity.
"I think they'll be given more consideration in the coming years, with people asking if these systems are as viable as the expensive systems that a few of the vendors offer," he said.
Open source is already being used generally in the e-learning space, said Parry, and is gaining traction on the desktop with products like the Firefox Web browser and OpenOffice.org office suite. On the server front, Linux has found favour in UTas's data centre environment.
Interoperability could also be a concern.
"If you look at Oracle's acquisition of JD Edwards and Peoplesoft, with Oracle itself being the biggest vendor in the ERP systems space, there's the possibility that people will be locked into a particular toolset, to be based around Oracle perhaps," said Parry.