Q&A: Edith Cowan University, manager of IT infrastructure, Angus Griffin

IT manager discusses major issues facing IT managers today and what’s next for ECU

West Australian-based Edith Cowan University (ECU) has not been shy in conducting ICT projects in recent years including the significant task of virtualizing its storage in 2007 and the rollout of the Live@edu hosted email platform to 36,000 students in 2009, as well as being part of the Australian academic supercomputing consortium iVEC. The university’s manager of IT infrastructure, Angus Griffin, has been instrumental throughout the projects and sat down with Computerworld Australia to discuss some of the major issues facing IT managers today and what’s next for ECU.

What does an average work day involve?

The average work day involves ensuring the health of the infrastructure and the team looking after it, along with making sure that we’re looking forward into the future with everything we do. We work very closely with our key strategic suppliers on a day-to-day basis but also with the rest of the sector – the university sector is a very collegiate environment and we try to work together with other research and education institutions as much as possible.

What are the major challenges you face in the role of IT manager?

University IT departments have an un-ending balancing act to perform between all those demands on IT to provide a robust service, to support the strategy of the organisation and to do both within our financial constraints. Putting in place and then operating an infrastructure which is robust and flexible enough to meet the needs of the organisation not only now but into the future presents a constant challenge.

What are some of the recent projects your IT department have been working on?

We’re working on finishing our new telephony system rollout and removing some of the last single-points of failure in our network core and electrical systems. Our identity and access management project will come to fruition later this year with the rollout of some of the core functionality happening in the fourth quarter.

What's next on the IT agenda for ECU?

Setting up our infrastructure facilities to cater for the next ten years of requirements will be a huge undertaking for us and will probably take a few years to get right. This could involve work on existing facilities, building new facilities to replace our existing ones, or outsourcing – or some combination of those.

We’re also going to have to look at our video conferencing infrastructure as we’re running several disparate systems presently which are not ideal.

In the more immediate future, we are planning to do some work to improve the resiliency of our database infrastructures, both in the Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle spaces. We run a consolidated infrastructure for SQL Server, but will be continuing our per-system approach for Oracle-based applications.

What are the three biggest issues facing IT managers today?

In the University sector in particular, but I think across all industries generally, BYO computing and the ever-expanding range operating systems and devices to support is a key issue for IT groups today. As we’ve seen in a number of high profile cases recently (WA Parliament comes to mind), users are starting to dictate the devices which will be supported to IT teams rather than the other way around.

Perhaps providing a part-solution to this is, and I intensely dislike the term, Cloud computing. By this I mean two things: firstly outsourcing in one form or another along with standardisation, virtualization and consolidation, allowing IT teams to do more with less; and secondly the move of more and more applications to using the Web as a platform.

Often-forgotten, IT Security is becoming increasingly important. The trouble with this is that it spans across so many facets of the business so developing maturity takes a long time and a consistent investment in resourcing and strategy. When I say IT Security, I include the triumvirate of confidentiality, integrity and availability.

What's your favourite gadget?

My Kindle – to be able to take a library with you makes travelling so much easier.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags storage virtualisationQ&AAngus GriffinEdith Cowan University (ECU)

More about CowanEdith Cowan UniversityEdith Cowan UniversityetworkGriffinIT SecurityiVECMicrosoftOracleWest

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