UWS, UTS share datacentre space



news Two of Sydney’s largest universities have teamed up to source co-location datacentre space from business-focused telecom Macquarie Telecom, in an effort to pool their resources and bettter serve the needs of students and staff.

In a statement issued by the pair this week, The University of Western Sydney and University of Technology, Sydney, said they knew agile data management and communication technologies were at the core of the modern student experience and essential for university academic and support staff performance. Both universities stand to “save millions” utilising Macquarie Telecom datacentre co-location services that provide economies of scale for business units, while delivering “improved and sustainable” services across campus.

UTS Chief Information Officer Christine Burns said in the statement that one of the greatest challenges facing a technology university such as UTS was responding to the many, varied calls to adopt the next ‘latest thing’.

“Institutionally UTS must invest in IT solutions that are agile and can evolve to support essential services that staff and student rely on most,” Burns said. “Implementing and then supporting every call for new gadgets is impossible; however working with Macquarie Telecom will help us quickly access additional technology resources such as computing power and storage, saving more than $10 million on a purpose-built facility. We can focus less time on commoditised facilities management and hardware management. We can leverage service-based infrastructures allowing for smaller, more nimble systems and solutions to be deployed faster and crucially, the new datacentre will greatly improve UTS disaster recovery capabilities.”

University of Western Sydney Director of Information Technology Services Kerry Holling said providing a facility that eliminated operational risks whilst supporting the “increasingly complex and data-intensive needs” of students, researchers, academic and professional staff was a challenge best addressed through the use of best practice, commercial services.

“By collaborating with UTS on procurement and utilising the resources of Macquarie Telecom datacentres, both universities are able to provide a higher level of service that is cost effective and more sustainable. Hosting the University’s data in an efficient new data centre brings greater reliability, security and safety while reducing electricity consumption,” said Holling, a former senior executive with HP and the Department of Family and Community Services NSW.

“UWS has embarked on an ambitious IT reform programme designed to support a major shift towards a blended learning strategy that leverages the power of both face-to-face and online methods. We need to ensure that our learning and teaching, research and administrative systems can handle these demands, and we now have the surety needed to support growth and the deployment of new services.”

Macquarie Telecom CEO David Tudehope said as the owner of the first Tier III certified data centre in Australia his company was in a unique position to provide UTS and UWS with a state-of-the-art datacentre delivering stability and flexibility to meet the changing needs of the education sector.

“The Macquarie Telecom datacentre is a flagship infrastructure project for UTS and UWS and while this is a new territory for both universities, we have all worked seamlessly together,” Mr Tudehope said. “Macquarie Telecom has an award winning culture of service across our business and we pride ourselves on being true partners with our customers.”

What this arrangement represents is that, broadly, many universities in Australia do not compete, or compete in a way which does not prohibit them cooperating on many matters. For example, while UTS may compete with Sydney University or the University of NSW, both of which are quite geographically close to its operations, does it really compete with UWS, which is much further out west? Not really, or at least not primarily, as university courses are still delivered predominantly in person at this point. It may be a different situation when, eventually, university courses primarily move online. That’s certainly the way things are going at the moment.

You can see this in the way that university IT directors across Australia have long cooperated and collaborated with each other, sharing knowledge in mutually beneficial ways. Probably the best-known forum for this is the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology, but there are also other places this takes place. Also in the mix is that universities are typically non-profit organisations, meaning they’re not chasing profit and can thus share information about their operations more freely.

To be honest, I’d like to see more of this kind of group buying behaviour from universities in Australia, and not just in relation to datacentre space. These institutions often need to purchase much of the same resources; there’s often going to be very little reason not to work together to maximise their effectiveness.

Image credit: Newtown grafitti, Creative Commons


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