If successful, cloud computing will enable IT departments to concentrate on managing information rather than physical assets, according to Curtin University of Technology CIO Peter Nikoletatos, who is leading a trial of a hybrid public-private cloud infrastructure.
In a presentation on "towards cloud computing" in Sydney, Nikoletatos said the infrastructure management, or "plumbing", now has a "strong correlation with what's happening in the cloud".
"This will allow us to move away from managing assets to managing information," he said. "I don't want to worry about assets and budgets, but I want to manage information."
Curtin is conducting a trial of cloud computing using Cisco's UCS technology and in partnership with Optus for the network and Alphawest for third-party cloud services.
"I strongly believe in strategy determining structure [and] you only validate a strategy through evidence-based practice," Nikoletatos said, adding that partners are strategic and CIOs are kidding themselves if they think they can "do it in isolation".
Nikoletatos said he can't find a definition of cloud computing that is consistent, but has narrowed it down to being a combination of elastic computing that is a "catalyst for tectonic change" and facilitates key IT functions with agility and flexibility.
"We want to see evidence of how it is delivered and how we can use it," he said. "It's leading change through innovation. At universities we do innovation well, but not change."
Curtin has about 180 applications using three master data sets. It's already using virtualisation extensively with "hundreds" of virtual servers, and Nikoletatos said a roll-out of Microsoft's live@edu cloud e-mail service was a "no-brainer" because students were "already in that environment and it was more robust".
Nikoletatos also spoke about cloud governance, which he said involves information classification, data governance, data security, risk management and compliance, as well as privacy issues and "the whole on-shore versus off-shore argument", about which Nikoletatos says he tries to be "pragmatic".
"We would like to manage all our information in Australia, but that might not always be possible," he said. "As we move to the cloud we will work on things we know we can deliver and deliver well. Then we will work on the extras."
So far Curtin has deployed two Cisco UCS chassis, which are not yet fully populated. Its wider IT environment has "several hundred" virtual machines, and Nikoletatos said the plan is to use more "compact infrastructure".
"We want to establish if it will work and what the latency will be," he said. "We've still going through testing but expect to go live around mid-year."
Having done server virtualisation "really well", Curtin will investigate virtual desktop infrastructure for specific areas of its business, like classrooms.
"We have about 16 data centres across campus, so it's also about consolidating data centres across campus," Nikoletatos said.
When asked if all the existing infrastructure will eventually be moved to UCS, Nikoletatos was confident the chosen partners of Cisco, EMC and Optus would lead the way.
"We're always speaking to our partners about better technology in the industry and how we can work towards that."
Alphawest's data centre technologies practice manager Andrew Vranjes, who is working with Curtin on the project, said the team is now looking at ways to connect the internal cloud to Optus' cloud.
"Curtin can pool the compute and move it as they need to for a virtual data centre delivered on demand," Vranjes said. "All the moves, adds and changes are done in software and provision times are in minutes."