The University of Western Sydney (UWS) has remodelled its IT governance structure, with a standing committee of the university's board of trustees replacing an internal group of stakeholders. UWS IT Director Mick Houlahan told ZDNet Australia in a telephone interview this week the new model would give IT a significantly higher profile in the university's decision-making processes.
The University of Western Sydney (UWS) has
remodelled its IT governance structure, with a standing committee
of the university's board of trustees replacing an internal group
UWS IT Director Mick Houlahan told ZDNet Australia in a
telephone interview this week the new model would give IT a
significantly higher profile in the university's decision-making
The previous body had focused "more on annual budgets rather
than strategic IT," according to Houlahan.
"For the first few years of our current structure that was
OK," he added, "because a lot of the strategic focus on IT was
moving from legacy systems to new common ones that would work
across all campuses."
"A lot of that work is now finished," he said, noting the new
committee would hold its first meeting in the next couple of
months. Potential areas to be addressed include video streaming of lectures and other next-generation learning technologies.
The move comes as UWS in recent months called in external
consultants to review its IT function.
While the findings from that process have not yet been
published, Houlahan said it would probably recommend some
changes, although he is broadly confident his department will do
"It's a bit hard to predict, but I'm expecting it to give us a
reasonable bill of health in terms of what we've been doing over
the last few years," he said.
UWS is also reorganising its internal staff structures as the convergence of technologies takes effect.
"The IT group has traditionally only concentrated on computers
and such things [eg PCs] on a campus level," said Houlahan. "But
now we'll be taking on a role involving support for
videoconferencing and some of the other teaching facilities,
things they use in lecture theatres."
The print services department is also moving from a
traditional trade printing approach to a modern model that will
see it integrated with other IT assets.
Nuts and bolts With all the high level moves going on, one
could be forgiven for thinking the operational side of UWS's IT
environment has been left behind. Not so.
"It's been a very busy year, and we thought in the latter part
of the year the pressure might be off, but I think it might
actually be getting a bit harder," laughed Houlahan.
UWS has placed an order to replace its Sun Microsystems E1000
database servers with the vendor's much more powerful E6900
The migration to take place in the latter part of this year
will entail an upgrade to Sun's Solaris 10 operating system,
which Houlahan said has improved virtualisation features compared
with the previous version 9. The university also uses VMWare virtualisation software on its Microsoft server fleet, particularly where the vendor's SQL Server database is involved.
UWS currently has two production data centres at its Penrith
campus, but has been given some space at the Parramatta campus
for a new facility to come online later this year. Houlahan said
this would improve redundancy and disaster recovery
On the software front, UWS is implementing an online enrolment
system utilising software from vendor Callista.
"It's sort of happening for small cohorts of students this
year, and moving into the major rollout next year, it'll all be
done online," said Houlahan.
While Houlahan has his eye on the incoming Windows
Vista and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies, they
are still a ways off for UWS.
"There's no compelling reason to change," he said of
Microsoft's controversial new operating system, noting it
wouldn't be until 2008 "at the earliest" that UWS would start to
look at migrating portions of its XP-based desktop fleet to
On the VoIP front, UWS will rollout IP telephony into its new
medical school currently under construction in Campbelltown, but
will stick to its traditional NEC-based analog technology for
most of its other facilities.
"That'll be our first serious implementation," said Houlahan.
"The current PABX fleet are all NEC and they're probably due for
replacement in the next 18 months to two years, so I think the
next generation would be more IP-based than the traditional
UWS does, however funnel voice calls over its cross-campus
fibre data network to save costs.
Although like many IT bosses Houlahan has a technical background,
when asked for wisdom to pass on to colleagues at other
companies, the industry veteran emphasised the non-technical
aspects of his role.
"I'd be getting the architecture right, getting the
relationships in place, getting that buy-in at executive level,"
"Going back to what I mentioned earlier, getting that into the
board level here I think will be a big plus for IT."