Cloud computing decimates Vic Uni’s IT dept


blog If you’re nervous about the impact that the deployment of cloud computing infrastructure could have on the need your organisation has for dedicated IT staff, you probably don’t want to read this chilling article by iTNews (click here for the full yarn), which details some rather mercenary comments by Victoria University on its own plans in the area:

“Victoria University expects to shed more than half of its internal IT staff over the next three years as part of continued moves toward a hybrid cloud platform.”

It would be tempting to think that this was an isolated move introduced by a mercenary chief information officer from the consulting industry brought in specifically for the task of cost-cutting, but the resume of the uni’s Executive Director, Technology and Knowledge Strategy Phil County, who has been executing the changes, paint a different picture: County is actually a long-time uni IT manager; an insider.

It will be fascinating to see whether this kind of behaviour spreads throughout the rest of Australia’s educational sector and even into the public and private sectors. One suspects that many of the nation’s chief financial officers would be more than happy with drastically reduced IT departments which have had much of their operations outsourced “to the cloud”. And, of course, it would be a sharp reminder to those who work in IT infrastructure to continue up-skilling; lest you quickly find yourself out of a job.

Image credit: Nicolas Raymond, royalty free


  1. This article has nothing to do with cloud computing. All they’ve done is consolidate their data centres into two. I agree the thinking about service provision is a step towards cloud computing but they still channel all requests for new infrastructure to IT after trying to let the business self-provision. Hardly cloud computing!

  2. Cloud computing is only media hype up, its been used for decades, your using it right now (web hosting), nothing new to see here.

    Whats become newish, when all’s said and done, is all these cost cutting organisations putting staff tools and customer data on a webhost somewhere. Hope they realise if they get screwed over, THEY get pinned for the customers data breach, not just the webhost.

    “It’s a trap… It’s worse than stupidity, it’s a marketing-hype campaign.” — Richard Stallman

    and more recently…
    “organisations investing in off-shore cloud services could find themselves on the pointy end of legal action should the privacy of Australians be breached as a result”, Victoria’s acting Privacy Commissioner has warned

    • People who say cloud computing is just hype really need to look into something real like Amazon Web Services (EC2, EBS, S3) and give it a try. This is true “infrastructure as a service” – the ability to launch new VMs at a moments notice. I agree some people will put a spin on it and pass of as ‘cloud’ something which clearly is just an in-house data centre (such as this article), but true cloud platforms are real and have something to offer the future of large scale computing.

  3. Agree, too much hype with cloud as private hosted networks in use for many years

    What we are seeing large government bodies may be moving more to outsource/cloud IT solutions but they also often rehire many back as consultants to still manage the IT

    I currently have this situation with a number if our clients working on govt projects

    Yes the general hardware techs will become less of a commodity but will not become obsolete any time soon, there are still many as raised above that are concerned about privacy and security of there data, so possible these hardware guys can look at gaining new skills in areas of growth such as security

  4. I wonder how much money, if anything, VU have saved. It seems they are reducing their internal staff significantly, but how much are they now relying on expensive external consultants?

  5. I suspect the cloud thing is a convenient spin. Most university IT groups are either decentralised into the various schools/colleges etc or have a core group doing some shared services. Any traditional Uni IT environment which is decentralised and then gets centralised will lose 30-60% of the staff.

    What’s hurting universities is the high AU$ which is reducing full fee paying international students and some financial investments which are post GFC coming back to haunt them.

    Uni management is kinda funny. I’ve gone to a few cloud forums/workshops with them and while they are gungho about going to the cloud as “IT has to evolve”, they staunchly believe that the brownstone university will never change or be irrelevant by having lectures, tutorials etc.

  6. The IT ‘hairball’ – with which I deal on a daily basis – is the main cause of high IT costs. Most of that extremely expensive complexity is in the way different systems share each other’s data. Most of it is driven by mid to small cost projects that come in under the budgetary thresholds for strict governance.

    Yes the cloud is wonderfully agile – all those lovely APIs and platforms that let department chiefs – deans or directors, it makes no difference – do end runs around their IT department.

    Complexity keeps going up – so the bills for IT projects keep climbing, as does the time it takes to get them done and the failure rates.

    The cloud is just about the cost of blinking lights. The cost of provisioning platforms – per clock cycle, byte, bandwidth, etc – has been falling and falling since we put the tent up. It will keep falling.

    The data and the systems we build just keep getting bigger, more complicated and more interconnected.

    That the cloud will somehow deliver ‘IT efficiency’ is the latest pipe-dream in an industry that churns out new pipe-dreams every two years. Yes cloud will drive the contribution (percentage) provisioning makes to total IT spend. But total IT spend will keep climbing. And relocating your IT hairball to the cloud may just make it climb even faster.

  7. The best way to look at cloud services is from the perspective of innovation rather than cost cutting. Monash University’s adoption of Google Apps for all students and staff is a good example. This solution is better, faster, less expensive and less risky than the previous in-house hosted office automation and collaboration solutions. It has materially contributed to productivity and educational outcomes by boosting collaborative behaviours between staff and students globally.

    The economies of scale and iterative evolution of the leading enterprise-grade cloud services will always outstrip the modest investment capabilities of small-medium sized enterprises such as universities. IT departments are advised to use cloud services where they are (a) available, (b) better, (c) faster to implement, (d) less expensive and (e) less risky … and to focus the skills and capabilities of in-house IT staff on applications and services that add real business value rather than simply ‘reinventing the wheel’ delivering basic commodity IT.

    The best career strategy for an IT professional in 2012 is to develop the skills needed to add value to public and private cloud services through orchestration, practical integration, Internet-age security and a proactive approach to information management in hybrid on-premise and cloud environments. These are the skills of the future.

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